Is Chocolate to Blame?

Posted on February 3, 2014 by


The following was sent to my e-mail via Sojourners, a publication under the auspices of Jim Wallis.  I find it very interesting that the writer blames “our love of chocolate” for the problem.

The following paid, sponsored message from Walk Free was sent to you via Sojourners.

Dear Marc, 

In the cocoa fields of the Ivory Coast, child slavery is ‘normal.’ It’s routine. It’s accepted.1 Children as young as 7 are sold  deprived of their childhood, ripped from their families, and subjected to routine abuse  to work long, backbreaking days picking cocoa. And it all stems from our love of chocolate.

Many chocolate brands have made public commitments to find the best solution. But we’ve learned that Warner Bros. is refusing to tell consumers where the cocoa for their Harry Potter chocolates comes from.

Warner Bros. has just announced plans for a massive expansion of their Harry Potter World in Florida – including a new shopping district, where more children than ever will be able to buy these chocolates. Taking a stand right now will make a big impact – will you help?

So since you have read the above, I have a couple of comments.  First, no one condones child slavery, assuming this is the case in Ivory Coast. However, I don’t think all work by children amounts to some sort of “slavery,” even outdoor work.  But let’s assume this really is slavery and if so, it is morally evil.  So why hasn’t anyone called on the government to stop its apparent legal sanction of this practice?  Isn’t that the real problem?  Why doesn’t Walk Free lobby the US government to put pressure on the Ivory Coast government to stop slavery?  While they are at it, why don’t they also promote real, working markets there, including of course defined property rights and a rule of law?  Why aren’t they decrying the corruption in the government?  Why don’t they criticize the human rights violations?  Why am I personally responsible for this tragedy?

Second, is my love of chocolate somehow morally culpable?  And does it really help if nobody buys chocolate from the Ivory Coast?  Then no one has jobs and either everyone starves or someone finds a new activity for slavery.  I for one refuse to be held morally responsible for something caused by another government and correctible by that government.  Am I missing something?

Just asking.