Imported shrimp’s inhuman cost

The Post and Courier
January 4, 2016

Fresh, local shrimp taste much better than the bland, farm-raised variety from Thailand. But here, from a recent wire-service dispatch, is an even better reason to eat South Carolina shrimp instead of the bland Thai type:

“An Associated Press investigation has found shrimp peeled by modern-day slaves [in Thailand] is reaching the U.S., Europe and Asia. The problem is fueled by corruption and complicity among police and authorities. Arrests and prosecutions are rare. Raids can end up sending migrants without proper paperwork to jail, while owners go unpunished.”

Thailand’s shrimp barons have vastly expanded their enterprise over the past quarter century by using unjustifiable methods to slash labor costs, undercutting not just American but Asian competitors. Many of the employees, who are subjected to brutal working conditions are migrants to Thailand desperate for work. The abuses include long periods of no pay, inability to leave the workplace, child labor, and yes, de facto slave status.

And half of Thailand’s cruel — but booming — shrimp harvest is now consumed in America.

The AP, updating a previous series about the rampant mistreatment of Thai shrimp processors, also reported a growing prevalence of “unregistered peeling sheds, where workers are overworked, underpaid and often unable to leave.”

But you can leave those imported shrimp on the shelves and buy the real deal caught here in natural coastal waters, not a pond 10,000 miles away.

Yes, fresh local shrimp costs more than imported Thai shrimp.

However, beyond financial and culinary considerations, domestic consumers should count the terrible cost of the virtual human bondage that keeps Thai shrimp prices low.

Author: Duane Childers

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