Slave-Trade Supermarkets

Pivotfarm's picture

Walmart, Tesco, Aldi, Morrissons, Carrefour, Costco. What do they all have in common, apart from the fact that they are supermarkets? They all sell products that are produced under slavery to the people that shop there.

Human rights lack all over the world; an ideal we just aspire to, but never reach.

But, it’s time that the abuses of the supermarket chains in the western world own up to doing far more these days than just zero-hour contracts, or low pay, cheap-labor in their own countries. Now, they have to admit that they are playing a role in the slave trade and slavery. In a report carried out by the Guardian newspaper, it was revealed that a mainstay of the production pf shrimp was slavery. The six-month enquiry showed that workers in Asia are being forced into work for years on end with no pay, torture and sometimes resulting in death thrown in just in case it wasn’t enough.

The Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron said yesterday that it was up to consumers to choose whether they wanted to eat food produced by slaves or not. Except, Mr. Cameron, the average consumer didn’t know that! It was also stated that the retail trade was driven by consumers. Does that mean that it’s the consumer that asks for cheap, slave-producing products? Cheap, certainly. But, only because the average consumer believes that supermarkets are making a killing on the backs of the people that shop there. The UK Home Office did state later, however: “Companies have a social responsibility to ensure that those they do business with are not involved in the exploitation of others. If businesses take no action they risk both their reputation and profit”.

In Thailand there are 650, 000 people that work in the seafood sector. Most of them are migrant workers, bought and sold at will, owned by brokers and treated like slaves. It’s common knowledge these days amongst the officials in the Thai government, our own Western governments and the supermarket bosses. The USTrafficking in Person (TIP) report has stated exactly that for years now. Yet, nobody has done anything.

I thought that the supermarkets were selling themselves on being ethical these days. But, that was just a fashionable by-word that got lost along the way. It was all marketing. Green, environment-friendly, low-waste, high-concern, looking after the little guys that were producing and all that. Just for sales purposes.

Ending it!

What they should be doing is asking for accountability and traceability, demanding to be informed where the products that stack our shelves with come from. They should be asking how they are produced and making sure that they comply with standards. If it means we only get expensive shrimp, then so-be-it. Is going without shrimp altogether unacceptable? Given half the chance (if customers had been told in the first place), there would be many that would refuse outright to play a role in the continuing of slavery under such circumstances, wouldn’t there?

But, supermarkets react only when their brand is in danger of losing reputation. Milk gets taken off the shelves and withdrawn from sale when people get wind of something going amiss in the production process. But, how many will lose reputation when the consumers hear of slavery? It’s too far removed from the consumer for them to worry about it, isn’t it? It’s just business as usual. But, if there were more of us consumers that actually stood up and refused it, then there would be a change. We forget just how effective we can be as consumers.

If you want the world to change, then it can only do so with your participation. Sitting back complacently and accepting, or believing that it’s the responsibility of supermarkets to stop stacking their shelves with slave-inducing products like shrimp won’t change a thing. The customer is part of that supply chain. Customers want cheap products; the supermarkets get them any which way they can. Customers buy them and the slaves produce them.

It’s been going on for years now, but it’s somehow different to the sport-shoe sweatshop industry that employs little hands in factories in the developing world. It’s somehow different when it means more than just slipping on the shoe. It means everything when you actually eat it; when it’s part of your pleasure; your nourishment. It’s feeding off the slavery in countries like Thailand that makes it indigestible, isn’t it?

Originally posted: Slave-Trade Supermarkets

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lasvegaspersona's picture

7 billion people 700,000,000 (10%) in the West. If the whole world were competitive the average wage would be $1.50 per hour for jobs that require no skill. Most jobs require little skill. All the jobs in finance are jobs created by dollar hegemony. When the dollar fails the USA will be hit really hard. It will lose those financial sector jobs AND have to compete with China, India, Philllipines, Thailand etc for low level manufacturing. Energy isn't getting more plentiful. This will lead to a much reduced standard of living at least as far as energy consumption is know the stuff we use to get around and grow food...heat and cool our factories...

I see dead people.

midtowng's picture

Slavery was one of the first industries in capitalism. It still is.

TheMadNumismatist's picture

I lived in SE Asia, and “slaves” are not the correct terminology; indentured servitude is more apt. Generally, they were contracted into servitude by their own families for one reason or another. Not very pleasant to the average Guardianista, or anybody else, for that matter, but the option of the entire family starving to death is probably worse.

NoWayJose's picture

Let's see - the US and UK are buying products made by Asian companies that hire workers at slave wages and make obscene profits.  Eventually this inability to produce anything, along with mountains of debt will bankrupt the US and UK.  At that point, the Asian companies will complete their purchase of US and UK companies (they are out buying now in fact).  Once the Asian companies own the US and UK companies, what kind of wages do you think they will pay to the remaining workers in the US and UK?  If you can even get a job at that point in the US or UK, you will be happy to get it -- kind of like the workers in Thailand, Vietnam, and China today!

kurt's picture

Read ahead bots are now dumping posts on this site.

I worry about the slaves who HAVE to shop at these stores. Isn't it bad enough a government, banking, corporate, NGO partnership put you upside down in your home, your tuition, exported your jobs, and are extracting your wealth, and not paying you any interest on saving, and planning worse in the form of commodity rackets, price fixing, wars, spying, propaganda? Why don't you consider signing the petition to REVERSE CITIZENS UNITED. It will make you feel better.

the grateful unemployed's picture

the problem is we're running out of slaves

bigkansas's picture

I need me a slave to shell my peas. Maybe I can keep one of Obamas DREAMS in my basement.

d edwards's picture

There are gonna be LOTS of them to go around!


BTW, I would ask the author of this piece: what are YOU  doing about the problem you're so concerned about?

earnulf's picture

Did this writer ever consider that the folks treating the workers as slaves are the blame, rather than consumers?   Or that in many Asian countries, Islam is the dominant religion and slavery is okay for non-believers?

Consumers want the biggest bang for their buck, any good buyer does, whether in the West, East, North or South.   If governments, which are supposed to regulate the marketplace, turn thier back on THEIR duties, you can't blame consumers.    Where are the law enforcement to correct these injustices?    Most are being paid by the slaver to look the other way.

Same with illegal drugs, sure there's consumers, but there are also people who only care about the money and could care less about the producers or the users, as long as there is demand for thier product.

Let's shoot the dealers and thier bosses, free the sslaves and get some serious medical help for the users.   We're wasting a lot of potential "getting high"


AnAnonymous's picture

Or that in many Asian countries, Islam is the dominant religion and slavery is okay for non-believers?

A few bolded words in the article. Like Thailand. That is overly buddist.

Cameron loves so much to serve the 'american' middle class he desires them to buy products that are made thanks to slavery.

That is how much Cameron loves the 'american' middle class. Nothing should come between an 'american' middle class and the satisfiction of their appetite to consume. Not even slavery.

Dont blame the servant. The servant only wants to please his master.

Czar of Defenestration's picture

Someone call the WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHambulance on this writer!


Geez, if you don't like something - for WHATEVER reason - DON'T BUY IT.

Try to stop me from buying it because it *offends* you?!  UP YOURS, fascist.


Take your imagined notion of a fair world (only partially viable ONLY through totalitarianism) and shove it where the sun don't shine.

Reptil's picture

got a question for you: is the slave trade a "free market"?

Czar of Defenestration's picture

Reptil, move to NORTH KOREA and tell us how "free" you feel being unburdened of the Free Market.

Enjoy your snark there.

I am more equal than others's picture




Being moral has a cost. 

Immorality (and any application of situational ethic) also has a cost - when paid, it is immensely more expensive than the cost of being moral.


orez65's picture

"Customers buy them and the slaves produce them ..."
I guess that I should have realized that the rice I bought at Walmart came from slave labor from reading the brand name: "Uncle Tom" !!!!!!

fredquimby's picture

So now it's Thailand's turn to be the global shock/horror punch-bag for it's sins......

What have they got that the West wants I wonder....


Emergency Ward's picture

The Pacific Pivot requires another navy base in that area.

Racer's picture

"up to consumers to choose whether they wanted to eat food produced by slaves or not."

So mr moron, before I buy anything in a supermarket I must demand full details of exactly how and where each item was produced and personally inspect each and every site before I purchase a single item?

Emergency Ward's picture

The last bag of "ethical organic coffee beans from the sustainable medical care for children coffee plantation" I bought tasted like crap.

AnAnonymous's picture

The few comments are already very good. Always trust 'americans'

While 'americans' enjoy depicting themselves as slaves (debt slaves and all), or consider salary people working in a chinese sweatshop as slaves, when they face actual slavery, then, as a miracle, there is no more slavery.

There is no slavery, only 'americanism' bringing progress to populations all around the world.

The cult of fantasy and denial of reality is imperium among 'americans'.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Of course, all evidenced as signs of progress of humanity.

People scratch their heads trying to find worse but no matter how they try, 'americanism' is definitively still the best thing to ever happen to humanity.

In true Panglossian fashion, 'americanism' has given humanity the best of all possible worlds.

1776, July, 4th, the birth of 'americanism', is the day Justice, Truth and Freedom were selflessly gifted to humanity. Every year since, this day is celebrated worldwide to commemorate this beneficient  'american' achievement for humanity.

AnAnonymous's picture

The temptation is great fot 'americans' to make of the celebration of 1776, July, 4th, a global celebration.

Racer's picture

People in the UK don't have to look to other parts of the world for slave labour for food production, it is in the UK, as documented by a recent television programme. People are enticed to work in the UK from other countries, their passports taken away and forced to work as vegetable pickers, locked up at night, given little food or money.

But how do you know that slaves have picked your vegetables, Camerwrong?

NidStyles's picture

To people today conditions of advancing prosperity will often appear as slavery. The same thing was said about the industrial revolution but the wealth of the people from before the industrial revolution to the start of it was drastically different. What we are seeing today is the industrial revolution finally reaching the rest of the world. 

teslaberry's picture

now just imagine that as the rest of the world is catching up to our industrial revolutions with their own.


one day they will be catching up to our data and automation revolutions as our own. 

consider that we are as of yet uncertain of how our own data and automation revolutions will pan out. 

many economists have chimed in to restate the obvious about mass unemployment and the increased utilty of 'data' state. 

that said, it's still far from clear. but whatever vicious results we experience, will one day be exported to the rest of the world, and how will that then effect us?

GoldenTool's picture

And the energy needs to go with it.

NidStyles's picture

The US has plenty of energy, they just have to stop wasting it so foolishly. Either the rising prices of it will get them, or a new tech will make everything else obsolete.

AnAnonymous's picture

Good things that those slaves are located in the US...

Bro of the Sorrowful Figure's picture

i was going to argue that our industrial revolution was different, until i thought about it and realized that it really wasnt. amazing how effective the "but we're different" brainwashing has been even a few years after ive woken up. you might be able to argue that conditions were better in the US because we had various laws protecting employees, (discounting the obvious elephant in the room --slavery) but even for whites im thinking those didnt really come into full effect until the end of the 19th century.

NidStyles's picture

The US had something many countries do not today, a bunch of people escaping persecution and never wanting to live under opression again. Immigrantion was very vital in raising the rate of improvement in the US during the industrial revolution. This is why expating is such a huge issue for the US Gov. They know that talent will thrive in foreign countries better than in the environment they have created here. 

MeBizarro's picture

More nonsense and ridiculous BS from one of most ridiculous posters on here.  The issue with US productivity and startups is tied to the amount of people who have stayed here after they go for education especially in certain sciences.  Since WW2 when the US absorbed a number of Jewish scientists flewing the Nazis and then after WW2 when the US admitted a number of Nazi German scientists who fled the Soviets, we have incredibly successful at 'brain drain' in that we get young scientists and others to go to school here and stay aferwards.  It has nothing to do with expats and US citizens living the US. 

NidStyles's picture

My post was apparently so over your head that you could not even understand it. 



The US has not been keeping the best and brightest, the best and brightest go where the money is, and most of that is in Asia.

Learn to do some research before opening your clap trap hero:


It's bad enough that Harvard Law wrote on the topic:

I don't even know who in the hell you are, but I'm the most ridiculous poster here? Really? You've been here over 2 years and I have never read a single post of yours... I didn't even post for the first year you were here. 

You're living in fucking la-la land apaprently... 


AnAnonymous's picture

The data address foreign born students.

Oldrepublic's picture

I am certain that some workers in the food industry in Asia have bard working conditions, but to use the term slavery seems excessive. I would say this: hundreds of millions of Asian workers have come out of poverty in the last few decades in contrast to the rapidly declining standard of living of US workers.

teslaberry's picture

the problem with 'slavery' is the competition of 2 fallacies. 


the fallacy of the false bifurcation; you are either black or white. your are either a slave or free. 

there are various gradations of slavery and freedom. 


the fallacy of the sandhill; Anything maintains a character even after slight alteration. but if you aggregate enough alterations; no matter how slight, like grains of sand; eventually the sandhill is either a grain of sand (by substration) or a mountain (by addition) it no longer is a 'hill'. but all you did was minor alteration. 

the fallacy is such that because soemthign can retain its character or lose it by small additions, that there is never a basis for determining that it has infact changed character in a discrete manner. 


because words are vague and characterizations mere aggregates of other qualities, it is a challenging task to define something as it goes through a 'phase transition"

while the simply human response is "i know it when I see it" , the more thoughtful reaction is , well, defining a condition is a subjective process, but at some point human beings universally do recognize pain and death and joy and life. it's just that the range of 'acceptable' levels of those qualties depends on many cultural contexts. 





what does 'slave' mean and to whome?

instead of getting all philosphical , it is enough to understand that the myth that everything would be better if we somehow refuse to import chinese made goods altogether is just that, a myth. 

i'm not scared of world war 3. but you should be. because if everyone stops trading with their major trade partners that is the only possible next step. and many of you could argue we will better off if we go to war with china, but I think that's nuts. 


we made our bed with nafta and outsourcing american labor, now , we simply lay in that bed. no one said it would be easy. and no one said the 'leadership' isn't to blame. policies can change, but when the nation has been stretched to the limit, any sudden policy changes will result in a vicious snapping back effect that accelerates the march towards world war. 

I would frankly put the next world war off another twenty thirty or fourty years if possible. 

after all, what's the rush?

AnAnonymous's picture

That is quite a funny 'american' post.

You are not inside or outside the US. There are various gradations of insideness or outsideness.

For the rest, if time allows because it deserves.

wharfdaddy's picture

Hey Old re-...... I'm a retired US Army Medical Officer and I used to sneak into to some of these migrant slave camps to treat these folks for illnesses. Whole Families live side by side in cubicles say 300 men woman and children in the space of about 3 city buses. Sun-up finds the able-bodied folks sitting in front of a 5 gallon can of shimp for shucking. They work until sundown. They can't go outside at all. A slit trench through the middle of the building carrys the waste out..people not allowed outside.... It's real slavery and many many forms of this going on in Thailand, all supportted by the police and government agency.... You can believe this report..Enjoy your Shimp Primavera..


SF beatnik's picture

Holy shit.  Thanks for that raw data, wharfdaddy.   

duo's picture

When I was a middle-class (two earners) kid in the '60s shrimp was something you ate maybe twice a year, on special occasions, salmon too.  Tuna came from a can and sardines were a staple.  Now the stuff is put into cat food.

rsnoble's picture

No doubt.  Now it's all you can eat radioactive/chemical smorgasboard on every street corner.

mrdenis's picture

Seniors in my neck of the woods love cat food ....Property taxes have forced that gourmet meal on them .......

Emergency Ward's picture

Property taxes.

The naked truth exposed: you don't own your house (even if it is paid for), you rent from the government and if you don't keep up the payments, they kick you out and take the house quicker than the bank can on a mortgage default.

messymerry's picture

This is a tragic, but interesting conundrum. If we get rid of slave produced foods, only the top 10% will be able to afford to go to the grocery store. Once again, the system topples.

Would somebody please show me a scenario where the system does not topple???


NickVegas's picture

Well, we could teach our children that everyone can produce food very easily with gardens and orchards, but that would destroy big ag, now wouldn't it. I could imagine that we could teach in elementary school the basics of food production including, dare I say it, real food production. We could have large community gardens and orchards distributed whereever people live. We could instill values that say food production is everyones problem, and we could have so much food for so little, that there would be no need for foreign slaves. There would be no need. These problems are self created, and can be solved very easily if we all change our thinking, but that is where the battle begins.

mototard's picture

Just finished a bowl of homemade soup and a small salad.  The beans, onion, oregano, lettuce, radishes, parsley, peas, tomatos and sage all came from my own garden.  The only slave labour involved was my own.  The turkey in the soup came from a local producer. I do the digging by hand, so no roto tiller or gasoline used. 

That is one way of not participating in the slave produced food market as well as eating healthier and cheaper food.


Just sayin....

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Tomorrow I will send 3 turkeys for my butcher to finish out. This is my down payment for his butchering services for my 15 meat birds, pheasants and 3 turkeys ( I will help). My garden is exploding in veggies too. Pole beans, peas, green bell peppers, various squash. This weekend we will have ratatouille which is all from the garden but the olive oil and the tomato paste.

We can produce the meat economically as well. Far less than organic prices but a bit more expensive than the dirt cheap conventional. Still, I don't have to worry about antibiotic resistant bacteria in the meat that,if cooked less than 185, may poison someone. It's a trade off. I don't trust boxed food so I have to forgo convenience. But learning how to raise food is a great life lesson and I'd rather pull weeds in the garden than watch TV anyway.


Peak Finance's picture

I can understand using a butcher for large animals, but really for small animals, even turkeys, you can do it yourself. I mean it's not a PLEASENT job, but really it doable and you can teach yourself.

Is there a paticualr reason you use a butcher for the small birds? 

Plus, you kill the birds em mass and freze them? Losing power out here is a big concern so we leave everything 'on the hoof' until it's ready to be eaten.

Not a critizem just curious as to how you do things.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

My butcher and I are good friends. He slaughters mostly cattle, sheep and hogs and processes wild game in our area. He has a large kettle perfect for scalding feathers but a small chicken run. I have a brooder and better facilities to raise birds so when they are old enough I give them to him. He much rather finish them then raise them from chicks.he would gladly do the whole job for me because he is very fast and more efficient than I am but I want to share in the task and not take advantage of our friendship.

When we slaughter, we do everything at once. This year that means 9 turkeys, 20 meat birds and 15 pheasants. He has several friends that are out of work and they help in exchange for a turkey for thanksgiving so there is some charity involved. It's kind of an all day party really. Just a getting together with friends to do a messy job. Yes, I do know how to do this myself. My husband used to raise beef so it really wouldn't be a big deal. It's a community thing I guess. We have solar back up for our power because to lose all this meat at once would be a tragedy.