This past weekend you may have had dinner at your favorite restaurant. The live music, drinks and mango chutney butterfly shrimp were to die for! The only problem: you may have happily ingested “slave shrimp” and went home to your apartment. While life was all good for you, the East Asian slaves who caught your shrimp cannot say the same. An investigative piece by The Guardian says slaves work for years at a time in the fishing industry, with no pay.
Their work environment is a danger zone where slaves are subjected to extreme violence. The shrimp they catch supplies select US and Europe food retailers. The Guardian‘s investigation lasted six months and revealed “large numbers of men” were purchased and held against their will and sold to work on fishing boats in Thailand. The top four retailers who sourced shrimp caught under these conditions are: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco. Men escaped the slave trad, candidly expressed the horrendous conditions they endured: 20-hour shifts, torture and even execution-style killings and pressure to take methamphetamines to increase their energy levels.
Migrant workers from Burma and Cambodia noted they paid brokers who were supposed to help them emigrate from one country to the next. Although they were transported from their home countries to Thailand, their dreams of working in factories were altered when they were sold to boat captains for approximately $419.
A monk named Vuthy from Cambodia said of the slave experience: “I thought I was going to die.They kept me chained up, they didn’t care about me or give me any food … They sold us like animals, but we are not animals – we are human beings.”
CP Foods, a $33 billion company that’s called “the kitchen of the world,” sources some of their goods from sellers who keep their workers in these inhuman conditions. Bob Miller, the UK managing director for the company, said of the situation: “We’re not here to defend what is going on. We know there’s issues with regard to the [raw] material that comes in [to port], but to what extent that is, we just don’t have visibility.”
Vijavat Isarabhakdi, the Thai ambassador to the US says, “Thailand is committed to combatting human trafficking. We know a lot more needs to be done but we also have made very significant progress to address the problem.” CP Foods also stated the only way for the fishing industry to become slavery-free is to show the Thailand government how it will affect the overall economy. To see the video production on this news topic, click here.
How careful are you about where your food is sourced?