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The world has a long history of sacrificing children as a way to pacify the gods. The Babylonians, Aztecs and Canaanites, for example, believed that they would not only protect themselves from the forces of nature, but would achieve good fortune by destroying their own. Eventually human beings became more civilized (at least in terms of killing their own species).
If we leap forward to the industrial revolution, we know that as a means of survival, children were sacrificed to harsh work environments in the cities. Not until after the industrial revolution did they benefit from laws enacted to limit the abuse they needed to endure.