Wednesday, March 25, 2015

25/03/2015: VIDEO: Burmese slaves whipped and forced to catch fish that ends up in supermarkets, restaurants and pet shops across America

Seafood caught by slave fishermen is ending up in supermarkets, restaurants and pet shops across America, an investigation has found, according to The Mail Online.

Burmese men are being kept in cages on a tiny Indonesian island and forced to fish - or risk being kicked, beaten and whipped with stingray tails.
Seafood caught by the slaves is entering major supply networks in the US with tainted produce appearing in sushi, canned pet food and bags of frozen fish, it is claimed.
"I want to go home. We all do."
The Associated Press says the men were brought to the village of Benjina through Thailand and the fish they are forced to catch is shipped back to Thailand before entering the global commerce stream.

It claims tainted fish can wind up in the supply chains of some of America's major grocery stores, such as Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway; the nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart; and the biggest food distributor, Sysco.

It can also find its way into the supply chains of some of the most popular brands of canned pet food, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams.

There are also suggestions it can turn up as calamari at fine dining restaurants, as imitation crab in a California sushi roll or as packages of frozen snapper relabeled with store brands that land on dinner tables.

In a year-long investigation, the AP interviewed more than 40 current and former slaves in Benjina.

It charted the journey of a single large shipment of slave-caught seafood from the Indonesian village, including squid, snapper, grouper and shrimp, and tracked it by satellite to a Thai harbor.
The Indonesian Village of Benjina
Upon its arrival, journalists followed trucks that loaded and drove the seafood over four nights to dozens of factories, cold storage plants and the country's biggest fish market.

Some fishermen, risking their lives, begged reporters for help.

"I want to go home. We all do," one Burmese slave called out over the side of his boat, a cry repeated by many men.

"Our parents haven't heard from us for a long time, I'm sure they think we are dead."

Their catch mixes in with other fish at numerous sites in Thailand, including processing plants. US Customs records show that several of those Thai factories ship to America.

They also ship to Europe and Asia, but the Associated Press traced shipments to the US, where trade records are public.
Stingray tails have long been used to make vicious whips
The major corporations identified by AP declined interviews but issued statements that strongly condemned labor abuses. Many described their work with human rights groups to hold subcontractors accountable.

National Fisheries Institute spokesman Gavin Gibbons, speaking on behalf of 300 US seafood firms that make up 75 percent of the industry, said his members are troubled by the findings.

“It's not only disturbing, it's disheartening because our companies have zero tolerance for labor abuses,” he said.

“These type of things flourish in the shadows.”

The slaves interviewed by the AP described 20 to 22-hour shifts and unclean drinking water.

Almost all said they were kicked, beaten or whipped with toxic stingray tails if they complained or tried to rest. They were paid little or nothing.

Read more, watch the video and see the pictures HERE.

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