Are You Supporting Slave Labor by Eating Shrimp?

A Guardian exposé reveals that most of us have probably done so unwittingly.

Photo: Phu Thinh Co/ Flickr

Photo: Phu Thinh Co/ Flickr

Shrimp are delicious, but the more you know about the industry surrounding them, the less palatable they become.

Yesterday, The Guardian released an 18-minute video which is worth taking the time to watch. It’s the culmination of six months of investigative reporting into Thailand’s fishing industry, and it draws a direct connection between slave labor and the seafood sold by major international retailers like Walmart and Costco.

The video draws a direct connection between slave labor and the seafood sold by major international retailers like Walmart and Costco.

The Guardian reports that Thai fishing boats using trafficked slaves are supplying fishmeal to the world’s largest shrimp farmer, Thailand-based CP Foods. The fishmeal is used to feed the shrimp, which are then sold to customers including Walmart, Carrefour, Costco, Tesco, Aldi, Morrisons, the Co-operative, and Iceland.

Thailand is the second-largest supplier of seafood to the U.S., and CP Foods alone accounts for ten percent of the country’s shrimp export. There’s a very good chance that you, as a consumer, have bought a product at the end of that supply chain.

 

15 Are You Supporting Slave Labor by Eating Shrimp?

 

23 Are You Supporting Slave Labor by Eating Shrimp?

The article states,

“There is no official record of how many men are enslaved on fishing boats. But the Thai government estimates that up to 300,000 people work in its fishing industry, 90% of whom are migrants vulnerable to being duped, trafficked and sold to the sea.”  

Former slaves—many from Cambodia and Burma—describe being beaten, tortured, and forced to work up to 22 hours a day for no pay. Many are sold from boat to boat and kept at sea for years on end; those who try to escape or rebel are executed in front of their fellow captives.

Many of the supermarket chains are aware of what’s going on.

Another shocking revelation is that CP Foods and many of the supermarket chains are aware of what’s going on. They all condemn slave labor and ban it in their contracts, but they don’t enforce those standards as rigorously as they could. A spokesman for Anti-Slavery International said that retailers could make a huge difference by withholding their business when suppliers don’t comply with their standards. As customers of those retailers, we can do the same.

shrimpfarm Are You Supporting Slave Labor by Eating Shrimp?
[A fish farm in Vietnam. (Photo: Flickr.com/jvl)]

We could also take it a step further, and eat less shrimp. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the average American consumes four pounds of shrimp per year. Shrimp farming is incredibly environmentally damaging, destroying coastal ecosystems and leaving a carbon footprint that’s ten times greater than that of pastured beef, reports TreeHugger. Catching wild shrimp is also problematic, since trawling for one pound of shrimp kills around 5-10 pounds of bycatch—other marine species like sharks and turtles that usually just get tossed back.

How much longer can we go on eating whatever we want, whenever we want it?

Enjoying seafood in a sustainable, responsible manner is a complicated process, but the first step is knowing where your food comes from and how it came to be on your plate. The next, perhaps more daunting step is to consider this: How much longer can we go on eating whatever we want, whenever we want it, and ignore the long-term impact?

[via The Guardian]

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