Justice

A Shrimp Slave Trade Connected to Walmart and Red Lobster Was Just Exposed

December 15th 2015

By:
Kyle Jaeger

Your shrimp might have passed through the hands of children and enslaved migrant workers in Thailand, an Associated Press investigation revealed on Monday.

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After following major factories that produce seafood, journalists found evidence of forced labor in the Asian country. At least 10,000 migrant children aged 13 to 15 were forced to rip the heads, tails, shells, and guts off shrimp under the threat of violence while receiving no pay.

"Pervasive human trafficking has helped turn Thailand into one of the world's biggest shrimp providers," the AP reports. "Despite repeated promises by businesses and government to clean up the country's $7 billion seafood export industry, an Associated Press investigation has found shrimp peeled by modern-day slaves is reaching the U.S., Europe, and Asia."

The AP added:

"Thailand is one of the world's biggest seafood exporters, and relies heavily on migrant workers from poor neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. These laborers often are misled by brokers in their home countries and illegally brought to Thailand with promises of good-paying jobs. They are then sold onto fishing boats or put into seafood processing plants where they become trapped and forced to work long hours for little or no money."

And the farmed shrimp that has made its way to supply chains in the U.S. include Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Dollar General, and Petco. As a result of the AP's investigation into slavery in the Thai seafood industry, more than 2,000 trapped fishermen have been freed this year.

Wal-Mart and a number of other companies that have been sold shrimp from Thai suppliers implicated in the investigation have condemned the working conditions and vowed to take action.

shrimp

"We are actively engaged in this issue and playing an important role in bringing together stakeholders to help eradicate human trafficking from Thailand's seafood export sector," a Wal-Mart spokesperson told the Guardian.

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The U.S. State Department has placed strong restrictions on Thailand over the past two years due to the country's poor human rights record—but it has never placed sanctions on Thai imports.

shrimp

"Companies such as Nestle have vowed to force change after conducting their own audits and finding that their Thai suppliers were abusing and enslaving workers," the AP reports. "Others are working with rights groups to monitor their supply chains and ensure laborers are treated fairly and humanely."