In June 2014, the Guardian reported that the Thai fishing industry was fueled by slaves working for no pay, sometimes trapped on boats for years on end.
These men work offshore catching “fishmeal” which is used to feed farmed shrimp. The world's largest shrimp producer, Thai-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys some of this fishmeal to feed the shrimp it then sells to global grocery retailers. The Guardian found that one of CP’s biggest buyers was Costco.
While CP and Costco profit immensely from these practices, workers suffer. There are roughly 300,000 workers estimated to be working on Thai fishing vessels. Many of these workers migrate from Burma and Cambodia seeking opportunity, but instead they are bought and sold like livestock. Workers who managed to escape spoke of 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture, and execution-style killings. Some were even given methamphetamines to keep them going. Whether or not you eat shrimp, you can agree this treatment is unacceptable.
Despite Costco’s corporate policies prohibiting the use of forced labor in its supply chain, these abuses are occurring. Consumers and human rights activists have come together to demand Costco source from only sustainable and socially responsible fisheries and fish farms and to trace its shrimp down to the boat level, including the ‘trashfish” used as feed on fish farms. A socially responsible supplier would be one that honors human rights--ensuring safe working conditions, fair wages, contracts and paystubs in workers’ native languages, freedom of movement, and freedom of association.
Costco can no longer turn a blind-eye to what this exploitation. Will you help free the slaves that are working right now in the Thai fishing sector?
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