Slavery in Asia’s seafood industry

Roger-Rabbit-icon1Do you read food labels to find out where the product came from? I don’t trust places like China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. For one thing, inspection and regulation is unreliable there. And also because some Asian seafood is produced by slaves.

Western news organizations recently have been shining a light on slavery practices of the Asian seafood industry. According to a recent article in the Seattle Times, laborers are “sold, tricked, or kidnapped” and forced to live in miserable conditions and work without pay.

The Associated Press reported, “The men the AP interviewed … were mostly from Myanmar … brought to Indonesia through Thailand and forced to fish. Their catch was then shipped back to Thailand, where it entered the global stream of commerce. [The] fish can wind up in … America’s major grocery stores, such as Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway; the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart; and the biggest food distributor, Sysco. It can find its way into … popular brands of canned pet food, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. It can turn up as calamari at fine dining restaurants, as imitation crab in a California sushi roll or as packages of frozen snapper relabeled with store brands ….”

If it comes from Indonesia, there’s also a good chance you’re buying from poachers.

Many American companies do a lousy job of policing their supply chains. Typically, corporate PR flacks pay lip service to fair labor practices, deny their companies knew anything about suppliers’ labor abuses, and offer empty promises to clean things up and do better next time. It’s b.s.; all they care about is cheap supply. I don’t know about you, but I’m not buying it.


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