What we in Britain call prawns are known as shrimp in the USA. They are a popular food, enjoyed by millions and many of these crustaceans (which I shall call “prawns” in the rest of this essay) are farmed off the coast of Thailand. It is a massive industry. The chances of you buying a wild prawn in a supermarket are very remote. The prawn farms are fed with fish meal and then the prawns are harvested in vessels bearing the Thai flag. So far the prawn industry does not appear to be very dissimilar to other fish farming industries and no doubt causes its fair share of environmental damage to enable us to enjoy prawn cocktails and prawn sandwiches.
In one important respect the prawn industry is alleged to be different from other fish farming businesses. It is said that the prawns are harvested by the use of slave labour. Workers are forced, it is alleged, to work 20 hour days, suffer beatings, torture and sometimes even death at the hands of their “employers”. The majority of captive workers used in this industry are from Myanmar and Cambodia. the workers, like the prawns they harvest are bought and sold
An American law firm has started proceedings against Costco and Walmart claiming that they are buying prawns obtained from slave labour.
It is normal in these cases to blame the large companies who buy slave produced food and goods, but the consumer must also take its share of the blame. We must be vigilant in what we buy, but mostly are not, preferring to close our eyes to the wrongs that are perpetrated to enable us to buy cheap food and clothes.