Shrimp and other seafood are greatly loved in the United States of America. Americans consume 590 million kilograms of seafood every year and about 1.8 kg per individual (Kelly, 2018). Initially, seafood was a luxury that was only served during exceptional occasions, but it became cheaper a few years ago after Asian farmers began growing it in ponds. Thailand rapidly conquered the market and now sells half of its supply to the United States.
The high demand for seafood has led to people being enslaved in the seafood companies due to the high cost associated with fishing and processing the food. The current state of seafood is dehumanizing in terms of working conditions, income generated by the slaves, and inhumane practices in the industries. The United States and Thailand governments have played a significant role in promoting seafood slavery.
Over the years, seafood slavery has taken a turn for the worst. Slavery has been increasing in recent years, especially in seafood firms. It has become a significant problem in south-east Asia, mainly in the shrimp segment of Thailand. Men, women, and children have greatly suffered under unbearable working conditions in bringing seafood to our tables.
The most disturbing case involved the leading shrimp company globally, Charoen Pokphand (CP), based in Thailand. The company supplies shrimps to major supermarkets such as Costco, Tesco, Carrefour, and Wal-Mart (Kelly, 2018). Often, the workers are migrants abducted by human traffickers and taken to “boating labor camps”, referred to by the New York Times. These migrants work for years without being paid; they get beaten and at times even killed (Nakamura et al., 2018).
These slaves work regardless of how dark or light, cold or hot, calm or stormy because boat captains mandate long working hours, and at times these people do not sleep. The workers mostly get one meal a day and nutritional quality and food safety are always questionable.
Global retailers have been disassociating themselves from shrimp produced by slaves and shrimp farms that have slaves as their source of labor. Many companies have been asking for more details before they buy shrimp. Some firms such as the HEB and Whole Foods supermarkets have been assuring their customers that their shrimp is not associated in any way with abusive companies (Nakamura et al., 2018). Shrimp consumers are becoming aware of the inhumane working conditions that the individuals doing the fishing and processing of the seafood are subjected to.
The United States and the Thailand governments have played a substantial role in promoting seafood slavery. The US administration has continued to allow the importation of seafood that slaves have processed despite President Barack Obama’s law. The law put an 86-year-old prohibition on importing goods that children or slaves have produced (Wilhelm et al., 2019).
The US government has been sparing Thailand from sanctions slapped on other nations with pathetic human trafficking records because they have a multifaceted political association that includes working together against terrorism (Wilhelm et al., 2019). There have been several years of highly publicized efforts to solve the problems in the fishing industry, and the Thailand government has not put in place the necessary measures required to end forced labor. Forced labor has continued in a culture of abuse even after the government put up some measures to control slavery.
As a Chief Sustainability Officer in a corporation that purchases large amounts of shrimp or seafood from south-east Asia, I would avoid buying products that slaves have produced. I would ensure that I get complete information about the source of shrimp that I buy and ensure that they are not produced through inhumane acts.
I would also ensure that my company follows government regulations that restrict the importation of goods produced by children or slaves. Forced labor and child abuse is the worst thing that can happen to a human being. Measures and regulations should be put in place to ensure that slavery is ended.
Kelly, A. (2018). Thai seafood: are the prawns on your plate still fished by slaves?. The Guardian. Web.
Nakamura, K., Bishop, L., Ward, T., Pramod, G., Thomson, D., Tungpuchayakul, P., & Srakaew, S. (2018). Seeing slavery in seafood supply chains. Science Advances, 4(7), e1701833. Web.
Wilhelm, M., Kadfak, A., Bhakoo, V., & Skattang, K. (2019). Private governance of human and labour rights in seafood supply chains – The case of the modern slavery crisis in Thailand. Marine Policy, 115. Web.