The Bangkok Post printed an editorial today titled “Dirty Hands of Shrimp Trade” calling on the Thai shrimp industry in Samut Sakhon to clean up abusive labor practices.
I encourage you to read the full editorial, which can be accessed through the link below.
Three sentences should jump out at you in the editorial:
There is no use denying that child labour exists in this industry. It may not be a widespread phenomenon. But it does exist when it should not at all.
I fully agree with this sentiment. In every one of the “negative” issues regarding imported seafood that we talk about, there is no use denying that a problem exists. We may disagree with importers as to how many shrimp are produced using abusive labor practices or using banned antibiotics, but there is no question that these problems exist. They exist when they should not at all.
Denying these problems or, worse, claiming that they have magically evaporated because of private industry actions does everyone a disservice. Maybe the abuse of labor in Thai shrimp processing is not a widespread phenomenon, but how is an American consumer supposed to know whether their Thai shrimp was produced by a child or not? Maybe there are Vietnamese shrimp exporters who thoroughly check their shipments to the United States for antibiotic contamination, but how will someone buying Vietnamese shrimp at a restaurant or grocery store know that?
For similar reasons, the unwillingness to admit that problems exist fundamentally undermines industry-sponsored certification programs. Multiple companies implicated in these negative stories hold certifications. Yet, no serious efforts appear to be made to address the disconnect between what the certification is supposed to mean and what neutral outside observers have found.
It seems to me that the industry keeps thinking about these problems not as substantive issues that must be addressed, but public relations hiccoughs that everyone will move on from. Unfortunately, facts are facts. No amount of spin will make facts go away. So maybe it is time to honestly confront the problems.
Read the Bangkok Post editorial “Dirty Hands of Shrimp Trade”: http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/316585/dirty-hands-of-shrimp-trade
Read SSA’s September 28th News Alert, “Know Your Supplier Continued: Eliminating Child and Forced Labor from the Shrimp Supply Chain”: https://www.shrimpalliance.com/?p=2511