Your Shrimp is Probably Peeled by Slaves

Shrimp is the most-loved seafood in the U.S., with Americans downing 1.3 billion pounds every year, or about 4 pounds per person. Once a luxury reserved for special occasions, it became cheap enough for stir-fries and scampis when Asian farmers started growing it in ponds three decades ago. Thailand quickly dominated the market and now sends nearly half of its supply to the U.S.

Source: AP: Global supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves

SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand (AP) — Every morning at 2 a.m., they heard a kick on the door and a threat: Get up or get beaten. For the next 16 hours, No. 31 and his wife stood in the factory that owned them with their aching hands in ice water. They ripped the guts, heads, tails and shells off shrimp bound for overseas markets, including grocery stores and all-you-can-eat buffets across the United States.

These slaves are usually illegal immigrants who are locked inside these factories.  They work every day for more than 16 hours just so you can eat cheap shrimp at Red Lobster.

AP journalists followed and filmed trucks loaded with freshly peeled shrimp from the Gig shed to major Thai exporting companies and then, using U.S. customs records and Thai industry reports, tracked it globally. They also traced similar connections from another factory raided six months earlier, and interviewed more than two dozen workers from both sites.

U.S. customs records show the shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden.

It also entered the supply chains of some of America’s best-known seafood brands and pet foods, including Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast, which are sold in grocery stores from Safeway and Schnucks to Piggly Wiggly and Albertsons. AP reporters went to supermarkets in all 50 states and found shrimp products from supply chains tainted with forced labor.

What can you do?  Ask your supermarket if they know where the shrimp came from, buy shrimp caught in the Gulf of Mexico, write Red Lobster and other restaurants.  Don’t support slavery.

[Retailers], including Red Lobster, Whole Foods and H-E-B Supermarkets, said they were confident — based on assurances from their Thai supplier — that their particular shrimp was not associated with abusive factories. That Thai supplier admits it hadn’t known where it was getting all its shrimp and sent a note outlining corrective measures to U.S. businesses [… ] last week.

I hope they mean it.

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Mekong River – Quick, Look Before it’s Gone

In pictures: Damming Laos’ Mekong River – In Pictures – Al Jazeera English.

A total of 11 large hydropower dams are planned by the governments of Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, while China has already completed five dams on the Mekong’s upper reaches, with another three under construction. China is also the driving force behind a cascade of dams on the Nam Ou River, a tributary of the Mekong in northern Laos.

Environmentalists fear these dams’ impact on fish numbers may have a devastating effect on food security and biodiversity in the region.

These countries are under intense pressure to industrialize and provide jobs for the people flooding into their cities.  Since factories require electricity, these dams are part of the vicious cycle – more displaced people needing more jobs.

The river also supplies the livelihood of millions of people.  How will damming it affect them?  The people most directly affected by this had no voice in the decision – how just is that?  What will become of the species that coexist with the river?  How will the changes affect the ecosystem of Indochina?  What would happen if these governments decided not to build the dams?

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