Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Globalisation and Prawns

A Guardian investigation has found:

Slaves forced to work for no pay for years at a time under threat of extreme violence are being used in Asia in the production of seafood sold by major US, British and other European retailers, the Guardian can reveal.

A six-month investigation has established that large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.

The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.
The Guardian 10 June 2014 : Revealed: Asian slave labour producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK

Quite revolting, but,

We scream about conditions in the prawn farms, so they get improved.
To pay for these improvements, the suppliers get squeezed.
The suppliers to maintain their profits, squeeze their “workers”.

Globalisation means long supply chains and long supply chains make auditing next to impossible as the murky stuff gets squeezed to the bottom leaving the top end smelling of roses.

Unfortunately that also means that if I am prepared to pay more to these supply chains to “feel good” about my buying practices, the premium I pay will be diluted at every stage as brokers profit from my conscience. In the end next to none of that premium will reach the exploited at the bottom of the appropriately named “chain”.

We have to resolve to cease buying from long supply chains if we want “directly ethical” food (cotton, drugs, shoes, tablet computers etc.). But what happens (“indirect ethics”) to those in these supply chains if the end consumers abandon them?

 

 

 

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