Walmart, Tesco, Aldi, Morrissons, Carrefour, Costco. What do they all have in common, apart from the fact that they are supermarkets? They all sell products that are produced under slavery to the people that shop there.
Human rights lack all over the world; an ideal we just aspire to, but never reach.
But, it’s time that the abuses of the supermarket chains in the western world own up to doing far more these days than just zero-hour contracts, or low pay, cheap-labor in their own countries. Now, they have to admit that they are playing a role in the slave trade and slavery. In a report carried out by the Guardian newspaper, it was revealed that a mainstay of the production pf shrimp was slavery. The six-month enquiry showed that workers in Asia are being forced into work for years on end with no pay, torture and sometimes resulting in death thrown in just in case it wasn’t enough.
The Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron said yesterday that it was up to consumers to choose whether they wanted to eat food produced by slaves or not. Except, Mr. Cameron, the average consumer didn’t know that! It was also stated that the retail trade was driven by consumers. Does that mean that it’s the consumer that asks for cheap, slave-producing products? Cheap, certainly. But, only because the average consumer believes that supermarkets are making a killing on the backs of the people that shop there. The UK Home Office did state later, however: “Companies have a social responsibility to ensure that those they do business with are not involved in the exploitation of others. If businesses take no action they risk both their reputation and profit”.
In Thailand there are 650, 000 people that work in the seafood sector. Most of them are migrant workers, bought and sold at will, owned by brokers and treated like slaves. It’s common knowledge these days amongst the officials in the Thai government, our own Western governments and the supermarket bosses. The USTrafficking in Person (TIP) report has stated exactly that for years now. Yet, nobody has done anything.
I thought that the supermarkets were selling themselves on being ethical these days. But, that was just a fashionable by-word that got lost along the way. It was all marketing. Green, environment-friendly, low-waste, high-concern, looking after the little guys that were producing and all that. Just for sales purposes.
What they should be doing is asking for accountability and traceability, demanding to be informed where the products that stack our shelves with come from. They should be asking how they are produced and making sure that they comply with standards. If it means we only get expensive shrimp, then so-be-it. Is going without shrimp altogether unacceptable? Given half the chance (if customers had been told in the first place), there would be many that would refuse outright to play a role in the continuing of slavery under such circumstances, wouldn’t there?
But, supermarkets react only when their brand is in danger of losing reputation. Milk gets taken off the shelves and withdrawn from sale when people get wind of something going amiss in the production process. But, how many will lose reputation when the consumers hear of slavery? It’s too far removed from the consumer for them to worry about it, isn’t it? It’s just business as usual. But, if there were more of us consumers that actually stood up and refused it, then there would be a change. We forget just how effective we can be as consumers.
If you want the world to change, then it can only do so with your participation. Sitting back complacently and accepting, or believing that it’s the responsibility of supermarkets to stop stacking their shelves with slave-inducing products like shrimp won’t change a thing. The customer is part of that supply chain. Customers want cheap products; the supermarkets get them any which way they can. Customers buy them and the slaves produce them.
It’s been going on for years now, but it’s somehow different to the sport-shoe sweatshop industry that employs little hands in factories in the developing world. It’s somehow different when it means more than just slipping on the shoe. It means everything when you actually eat it; when it’s part of your pleasure; your nourishment. It’s feeding off the slavery in countries like Thailand that makes it indigestible, isn’t it?
Originally posted: Slave-Trade Supermarkets