An extensive investigative report conducted by the Associated Press has uncovered gruesome, appalling slavery conditions in Thailand’s shrimp business. According to the report, places like the Gig Peeling Factory “employ” thousands of slaves that work more than 16 hours per day peeling shrimp. Employees are known by numbers, not names, and are sold to factories by Thai bosses.
Much of the shrimp peeled by enchained hands is sold to major international markets and end up on the shelves and plates at popular retailers and restaurants, including Walmart, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Kroger, and Whole Foods. Records show that the shrimp was exported across Asia and to Europe as well.
Since the AP story was published, Red Lobster has come out with a statement confirming that none of their products were associated with the ethically dubious shrimp outlined in the original report:
"We take allegations of human rights and labor abuses in our supply chain very seriously," Red Lobster said in a statement. We have investigated the claims in the Associated Press story, and we are confident based on our findings and assurances from Thai Union that our seafood supply was not associated with the abusive pre-processing facilities.
"I told my wife, 'We're in real trouble. If something ends up going wrong, we're going to die,’” one of the Gig Peeling factor workers, Tin Nyo Win, told AP.
This is not the first Associated Press investigation that has uncovered deplorable working conditions in the Southeast Asian booming seafood business. A similar report was published earlier this year on the slave-like conditions of Thai fishermen. The issue was brought to light and thousands of slaves were freed. Dozens of bosses were arrested and millions of illicit moneys were recovered.
Many of the major Western companies that bought shrimp from Thailand responded to AP’s story with remorse and concern.
“I want to eliminate this," said Dirk Leuenberger, CEO of Aqua Star, one of the more than 40 brands and 150 stores that distributed the shrimp. "I think it's disgusting that it's even remotely part of my business."