The global food chain involves people that are enslaved, tortured and even killed while working to get the food that ends on our tables. One example is the seafood sold in the US, UK and Europe where enslaved people are forced to work hard and with no pay and under huge threat of extreme violence. They work under horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Trafficking victims tell stories about fellow slaves murdered or committing suicide in front of them.
“Asian slave labor” are bought and sold like animals and held against their will on the fishing boats of prawns or shrimp sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco. The world’s largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, feeding its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves. CP Foods – annual turnover of $33bn (£20bn) that brands itself as “the kitchen of the world” – sells its own-brand prawn to other farms, international supermarkets, food manufacturers and food retailers, with frozen or cooked prawns and ready-made meals, also raw prawn materials for food distributors.
The alarm over slavery in the Thai fishing industry has been sounded before by non-governmental organizations and in UN reports. But the Guardian has established how the pieces of the long, complex supply chains connect slavery to leading producers and retailers. “If you buy prawns or shrimp from Thailand, you will be buying the produce of slave labor,” said Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International.
An interesting observation made by a US researcher is that global warming introduced negative impacts on the labor market and forced people to slavery. Increasing sea level caused enhanced salinity of agricultural land in coastal areas of Asia with effects on people to leave agriculture to fishing industry and the threats of being unemployed made them victims for slavery.