The Common Good

Halloween Treats Can Be Tricky: The Ethics of Chocolate

800px-Hersheys_ChocolateThere are plenty of big things for us to worry about in America right now.

Occupy Wall Street movement is spreading quickly across North America and around the world.

Unemployment and foreclosures continue take away our incomes and our homes in record numbers.

There's a constant debate about money: Who has it, who doesn't, and whose responsibility it is to make our economy more just and equitable.

With so much happening literally in our own backyards, why should a little thing like which chocolate we hand out on Halloween even hit our radar?

Well, since chocolate is such a seemingly trivial matter, perhaps it is one small choice we can make consciously to create justice in a world fraught with systemic dysfunction.

Why chocolate? Heck, some of us are eating more of it just to cope with all the chaos.

Yet as Halloween approaches and we rush to the supermarket to choose our treats with all the enthusiasm of a kid hoping to find Willy Wonka's golden ticket, which chocolate we decide to take to the check-out counter is a very real, teachable moment about global responsibility.

Before we grab a bag of Hershey's Kisses or a sack of bite-sized York Peppermint Patties, we would do well to pause for a moment to consider the hundreds of thousands of children who are enslaved in the cocoa industry of West Africa.

If you buy your candy in the United States, chances are that your treats are filled with more than sugar and empty calories. They also may hold the blood, sweat, and tears of an African children who should be in elementary school rather than slaving in cocoa fields.

For instance, Cote D'Ivoire and Ghana alone, an estimated 2 million children worked in cocoa-related activities and of those children, only 5 to 10 percent were actually paid anything for their work, according to a 2010 Tulane University report on the cocoa industry.

The Tulane study also reported:

Ongoing exploitation of labor rights in the cocoa sector including the worst forms of child labor, forced labor and trafficking.

New research related to the trafficking of young workers from Burkina Faso and Mali found that:

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