Wal-Mart and Costco are selling shrimp linked to slavery

Horrific human rights abuses are integral to the global shrimp supply chain, an investigation finds

Topics: slavery, shrimp, Thailand, Costco, Walmart, ,

As many as 21 million men, women and children are victims of modern-day slavery, and a Guardian report reveals how that abuse reverberates throughout the global shrimp supply chain, down to the seafood sold by major retailers throughout Europe and the U.S.

Allegations of serious human rights abuses in the South Asian shrimping industry have surfaced before, but the Guardian claims that its six-month investigation more thoroughly traces the long chain of production involved. It begins by connecting fishing boats manned by slaves to Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, the world’s largest shrimp supplier. Some of the fishmeal that CP Foods feeds its shrimp comes from those boats, a fact the company admitted. The shrimp is then sold to food manufactures and retailers including Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco. Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, simplified the complex chain thusly: ”If you buy prawns or shrimp from Thailand, you will be buying the produce of slave labor.”

The details, as reported by the Guardian, are horrific:



Men who have managed to escape from boats supplying CP Foods and other companies like it told the Guardian of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for years; some were regularly offered methamphetamines to keep them going. Some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them.

…”I thought I was going to die,” said Vuthy, a former monk from Cambodia who was sold from captain to captain. “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.”

Another trafficking victim said he had seen as many as 20 fellow slaves killed in front of him, one of whom was tied, limb by limb, to the bows of four boats and pulled apart at sea.

“We’d get beaten even if we worked hard,” said another. “All the Burmese, [even] on all the other boats, were trafficked. There were so many of us [slaves] it would be impossible to count them all.”

When contacted, the companies implicated all condemned slave labor — and some indicated that they’d already been aware of the problem. “We know there’s issues,” said Bob Miller, CP Foods’ U.K. managing director, “but to what extent that is, we just don’t have visibility.”

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...