Sad reality

Report finds that much of shrimp sold in supermarkets has been peeled by slaves

Thai workers process shrimps at a shrimp factory in Samutsakhon, Thailand. Pervasive human trafficking has helped turn Thailand into one of the world's biggest shrimp providers.(Chumsak Kanoknan/Getty Images)

The buying and selling of humans. Sixteen-hour shifts. Grueling and forced manual labor. Child exploitation. Sleep deprivation. These are some of the dark truths dug up in an investigative report by The Associated Press conducted in Bangkok, Thailand, during a probe of the shrimp deshelling business. Reporters found that slavery is practically par for the course in the industry, and slaves are often working in factories that are hidden in plain sight. Slaves are driven hard, not compensated for their work and dehumanized by owners who refer to them using numbers instead of their names. Many children, some very small, are among those forced to work under the unforgiving conditions. The vast majority of the enslaved are migrant workers.

And the shrimp that they are peeling is showing up in supermarkets and on tables around the world. AP reporters found shrimp that came from purveyors tied to slavery in Thailand for sale in all 50 U.S. states. Despite that fact, the State Department has yet to punish Thailand with trade sanctions.

The AP talked with some former slaves who’d escaped the horrific conditions. One chilling story that was recounted was that of a woman who was eight months pregnant miscarrying while on the job. Her bosses, instead of getting medical care for her, forced her to continue peeling shrimp for four days as she bled.

“Sometimes when we were working, the tears would run down our cheeks because it was so tiring we couldn’t bear it,” one unidentified man recalled. “We were crying, but we kept peeling shrimp. We couldn’t rest,” he said. “I think people are guilty if they eat the shrimp that we peeled like slaves.”

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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