Slaving for your seafood?

Human rights and animal rights are often interconnected. Animal rights is a social justice movement and its participants are often involved in helping people too.

The dirtiest jobs in the animal food industries are often done by people who are abused like the animals in the system. They’re undocumented workers, undereducated and lacking in resources or language skills and they can’t speak up for themselves and their situations.

Most of the time, people have the option of walking away–the animals don’t. So I feel for the animals, not the perpetrators. Sometimes, however, the dire situations people find themselves in, ties their hands too.

One example of this interconnectedness is in the fishing industry. In Thailand, men from neighboring countries are tricked into working on fishing ships. Of course I wish people wouldn’t entertain the idea of decimating the ocean for a paycheck, but I haven’t walked in their shoes. I don’t know the poverty they face. I don’t know about their struggles to feed their families. I can’t judge.

fishing boat

With over 25,000 legal fishing vessels in Thailand, and a vast ocean at their shores, the illegal boats easily blend in. Like any seedy underworld activity, they go unnoticed. Migrant workers can be bought for about $600, but their lives are worth even less.

The slaves on fishing ships are smuggled from nearby countries like Cambodia and Myanmar, with the promise of a good job. Once on the ships, they’re overworked, denied pay, beaten and sometimes even killed.

It goes on because the money is lucrative, because the demand for cheap fish is high, and authorities don’t prosecute. Victims who escape and speak up are often punished.

Thailand is the second largest importer of seafood to the USA. It’s going to take consumers to stop slavery. We need to take a stand and say no to an industry that is relentlessly cruel to the environment, animals and people.

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