It doesn’t take long after stepping foot in Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter to realize that children are absolutely enthralled by everything Harry Potter. From the Hogwarts castle replica to the butterbeer cart, the place keeps kids in a constant state of bright-eyed wonder. However, it’s this innocence and awe that makes the truth behind some of the park’s merchandise so heartbreaking.
Shift your headspace from the sun-drenched Orlando theme park to the scorching fields of the African Ivory Coast – many of the workers are children ranging from 7 to 16 years old, and rather than sitting in a classroom, they’re being forced to farm cocoa beans in hot fields with dangerous supplies while being exposed to toxic chemicals
all to supply us with our candy.
Behr’s Chocolates, based in Orlando, is the maker of Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s beloved “chocolate frogs” as well as other sweet treats sold in the park. The company has earned an “F” rating from human-trafficking awareness group Free2Work for its use of suppliers who engage in human-trafficking and slave-labor practices. So why does Warner Bros., the entertainment powerhouse that owns the Harry Potter franchise, which it licenses to Universal, allow this practice to persist? The problem begins with the sheer scale of the situation – the Ivory Coast cocoa bean industry consists of 3.5 million workers and exports 35 percent of the entirety of the world’s cocoa beans. There are few companies that earn more than a D+ from Free2Work, but Behr is one of the lowest ranked (for comparison: Lindt earned a C-, Hershey's a D+ and Nestle a D). To date, it's estimated that 109,000 of the workers on Ivory Coast cacao bean farms are children, and 10,000 are child victims of human trafficking.
The 2001 Emmy-winning documentary Slavery: A Global Investigation raises the point that teenagers who farm cocoa beans have never even tasted the chocolate that they slave away to provide – a dismal fact. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. continues to brush off accusations, saying that they’re “satisfied” with the origin of their chocolate products but refuse to state why. This blatant insensitivity on Warner Bros. part is certainly a large part of the problem, but a solution also rests on consumers’ shoulders.
If you're interested in becoming a part of the campaign to end Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s connection to chocolate made using child slave-labor, sign the petition to ask that the companies in charge of the theme park's merchandising support fair-trade chocolate.