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Walmart Seafood Linked to Human Trafficking and Slavery

Walmart is among the retailers linked to a Thai seafood company accused of human trafficking and slavery.

The issue of slave labor and fishing has been known to supermarkets, including Walmart,  for quite some time. In 2009, a United Nations report found the epicenter for the human exploitation in the seafood industry was in Thailand where fishermen-slaves often were held captive on boats for years or forced into harsh working conditions at processing plants.

“An estimated thousands of Cambodian men, women, and children are trafficked annually to Thailand for the purpose of labor exploitation,” the UN report read, pointing our the worst abuses happened on long-haul ships. “These boats, out to sea for up to two years or more, become virtual prisons on which the trafficking victims endure inhumane working conditions, and physical abuse.”

Often the slaves die while on board. According to the UN, nearly 60 percent of all boat workers have witnessed a fellow fisherman being killed by their captors.

Many of these slaves in the Thai seafood industry are also young children who must endure harsh conditions and backbreaking labor in prawn processing plants on-shore.

Aung Aye, was a small child when he began to work at a prawn factory in Thailand. “I think [people in the West] eat shrimp because they don’t know how it is produced at the factory. If they knew, they wouldn’t eat it,” the child laborer, said.

Like over half of the workers in the Thai seafood industry, Aye endured forced labor and witnessed horrifying abuses and the selling of human lives.

“There are some workers who ran away. There are some who are caught and they are not brought back to the factory… others are being sold,” another processing worker said, describing the world in which he and others must face each day.

In response to the allegations of human trafficking and slave labor, Walmart said it planned on looking into the matter and its distributors closely.

“We are actively engaged in this issue and playing an important role in bringing together stakeholders to help eradicate human trafficking from Thailand’s seafood export sector,” a statement from the mega-retailer read.

Other retailers linked to the Thai seafood giant named in the report -CP Foods – included Costco, Tesco and Aldi.


Photo Credit: Screenshot/Environmental Justice Foundation

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.