What is the True Cost of Cheap Prawns?
Environmental issues have long plagued Thailand’s booming fishing industry, but last year the Guardian published a scathing exposé documenting the horrifying extent to which Thailand’s prawn industry relies on slave labor to produce prawn-feed. CP Foods, which supplies Walmart, Carrefour, Costco, Tesco, and other retailers with prawn products, did not deny their supply chain relied on slave labor. Men who escaped slavery recounted the abysmal conditions, “including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings”. One former slave described seeing a man tied to the bows of four boats and ripped apart limb by limb. The international demand for cheap prawns, particularly in the United States and Europe, has largely driven this demand for cheap labor, and without international demands for action, the Thai government has little reason to regulate the horrific exploitation of workers. The connection between cheap prawns and slave labor highlights the necessity of true cost accounting — “cheap” prawns come with the high price tag of human exploitation and degradation.