Widespread human trafficking is a big part of why Thailand is now one the world's biggest shrimp providers, an Associated Press investigative series details.
"More than 2,000 trapped fishermen have been freed this year as a result of an ongoing Associated Press investigative series into slavery in the Thai seafood industry," AP claims. "The reports also have led to a dozen arrests, millions of dollars' worth of seizures and proposals for new federal laws."
The topic isn't new, and there have been other investigative projects into slave labor and the fishing trade–this Guardian series in 2014 was amazing journalism.
But none of that seems to have put much of a dent in sales demand for the suppliers in Thailand who literally keep human beings enslaved in order to maximize profit. They use torture, beatings, and murder to brutalize people. And the seafood they pack ends up in upmarket grocery store chains like Whole Foods, in well-known canned seafood or pet food brands, and on tables throughout the United States.
Last month, AP journalists followed and filmed trucks loaded with freshly peeled shrimp from the Gig shed to major Thai exporting companies and then, using U.S. customs records and Thai industry reports, tracked it globally. They also traced similar connections from another factory raided six months earlier, and interviewed more than two dozen workers from both sites.
U.S. customs records show the shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden.
It also entered the supply chains of some of America's best-known seafood brands and pet foods, including Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast, which are sold in grocery stores from Safeway and Schnucks to Piggly Wiggly and Albertsons. AP reporters went to supermarkets in all 50 states and found shrimp products from supply chains tainted with forced labor.
European and Asian import and export records are confidential, but the Thai companies receiving shrimp tracked by the AP all say they ship to Europe and Asia as well.
And by the way, if none of that human suffering crap bothers you, there are other very good reasons to stop eating shrimp. Common shrimp fishing practices cause irreversible environmental destruction in our oceans, and are wiping out entire species of marine life. This NRDC reference article is a good place to start.
"AP: Global supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves
" And related: new calls on Capitol Hill and elsewhere for a shrimp boycott, spurred by the AP article. [AP]
Previously on Boing Boing: Thai shrimp industry runs on brutal slavery and murder