Easter's chocolate bunnies will bring smiles to celebrating kids, but the tasteless truth is that African children are suffering unimaginable harm to produce many of these treats.
According to Stop the Traffick, 1.8 million children are subjected to backbreaking labor on West African cocoa farms, from which 70 percent of the world's chocolate derives. Impoverished kids are taken from their parents, with promises of honest work and money for their family, and are then forced to endure harsh labor and physical abuse, according to Knight Ridder Newspapers
"The beatings were a part of my life," Aly Diabate, a freed slave, told the news outlet. "Anytime they loaded you with bags and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead, they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again."
Chocolate lovers will buy more of their favorite candy over Easter than at any point during the rest of the year, according to Kraft. But they will also have the opportunity to take the biggest stand, to show chocolate companies that they're just as enthralled with filling up with baskets with sweets that had no slaves involved in the production process.
Click through our slideshow below to learn how you can make a difference this Easter by buying conflict-free chocolate and pushing to put an end to child slavery in the cocoa industry.SLIDESHOW:
Slave Free Chocolate, a coalition that's working to end child slavery on West African cocoa farms, investigated the companies that have ethical production practices, and offers consumers a list brands to consider. Newman's Own Organics, Trader Joe's Organic Chocolate Bars, Denman Island Chocolate and Green and Black's are a just a few brands you can proudly buy.
If the label indicates that the chocolate is organic or fair trade, then slaves likely had nothing to do with your sweets, according to Slave Free Chocolate. "There are no organic growing techniques, capability, or much interest in West Africa or the Ivory Coast or Ghana," Gene Tanski, a supply chain expert and CEO of Demand Foresight, told CNN. "Most of the trees there were planted about 25 years ago and they're on the downside of their productive life."
Biting into conflict-free chocolate is as easy as just finding out from where the sugary treat originated, according to Tanski. "If it comes from Africa, there is most likely slave labor involved. If it comes from South America or Asia, chances are that there is not," Tanski told CNN. "That's not to say there aren't poor conditions, but it's not the slave labor that's highlighted in the CNN report."
Cadbury has committed to ending forced child labor by selling fair trade chocolate in the UK and Canada, but it hasn't yet brought those sweets to the U.S. because Hershey controls its manufacturing and purchasing in this country. Encourage Hershey to enable Cadbury to bring its ethical practices to the U.S. by signing the petition telling the company it's time to "raise the bar."
According to Stop The Traffik, 1.8 million children are being forced to perform backbreaking labor on cocoa farms in West Africa, from which 70 percent of the world's chocolate derives. To protect these children -- and remove them from the production process -- sign the organization's petition urging governments to inspect companies' supply chains, bring legal action against traffickers and establish an independent body that monitors the chocolate industry.