Distressing news about shrimp

Shackles

A couple of months ago we reported on high shrimp prices, but that seems inconsequential compared to today's report by The Guardian on the shrimp industry. The news was both shocking and appalling. An investigation by the paper found "that the world's largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves."

People have been forced to work for no pay on slave ships, going unfed, enduring beatings and even "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." The slave labor is used to harvest unwanted fish that are used to make fishmeal, which is then fed to shrimp farmed in Thailand.

Major retailers are selling this farmed shrimp, including Walmart, Costco, Aldi, Carrefour, Tesco, and others. Many of them have issued comments on the news, vowing to work with CP Foods on eradicating the problem. For its part, CP Foods acknowledges that slave labor is involved. "We're not here to defend what is going on," said Bob Miller, CP Foods' UK managing director. "We know there's issues with regard to the [raw] material that comes in [to port], but to what extent that is, we just don't have visibility."

There have long been rumors of slave labor, but the Guardian has, for the first time, "established how the pieces of the long, complex supply chains connect slavery to leading producers and retailers." CP Foods has pledged to "use its commercial weight to try to influence the Thai government to act rather than walk away from the Thai fishing industry," and is also working on plans to use alternative proteins in its feed by 2021 if the problem can't be solved.

4 Comments

  • FuzzyChef  on  6/11/2014 at 11:58 AM

    Well, I think a boycott of Thai shrimp would get them to stop using slave ships a LOT sooner than 2021. How about we take a pledge not to buy any Thai shrimp until 2021?

  • ellabee  on  6/14/2014 at 9:59 AM

    Between this distressing information (first learned about in 2012) and the big BP spill's effects on Gulf seafood since 2010, our household's shrimp consumption has gone way down over the last few years.

  • slimmer  on  6/26/2014 at 7:35 AM

    Gulf shrimp is probably the most-tested nowadays, so it's likely the safest and the only kind I buy. I want to support the domestic fishing industry and stopped buying foreign farmed shrimp several years ago. This is just one more reason not to buy cheap foreign shrimp.

  • freckles  on  6/27/2014 at 7:40 AM

    I am going to agree with FuzzyChef on this. I am appalled that they are giving this till 2012. 8 more years a slave? I will not be buying shrimp from unknown sources. Gulf shrimp have my vote. Going to have to share this on Facebook.

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