By Jocelyn Ramirez
I have been a seafood addict since I was a kid. I grew up going to San Pedro’s fish market with my parents on weekends to order our own individual crab and a pile of shrimp to go along with our big bottle of tapatio hot sauce. When I decided to choose a vegetarian lifestyle, seafood was the hardest thing to let go. A recent article reminded me that we’ve come such a long way from the idea of Forrest and Bubba finding our next shrimp dinner off a U.S. coast. In fact, many of the companies providing our shrimp are using slave labor.
The Associated Press article describes the modern day slavery taking place in Thai shrimp companies. Families are forced to work 16 hour shifts over the threat of being beaten. These companies rely on human trafficking to meet their staffing needs. Victims of human trafficking often include children. There are direct links made to major U.S. companies, restaurants, and grocery stores that source our country’s shrimp consumption.
My heart sank because this type of human suffering and exploitation is created by our very own desires. The reality is that our demand for the things we like far exceed what we can produce while providing people in that industry a safe and sustainable lifestyle. Our privilege to have whatever we want whenever we want it has transformed the way the world functions, and the way we treat others who produce the things we want for our chosen lifestyle. This industry and the companies who support them definitely need to be held accountable for their actions, but we also need to identify ways that our lifestyle continues to feed into these systems that continue to oppress people, animals, and our planet. It made me look to myself and reflect on what I can do to better serve others in my community, and those I will never meet. Inexpensive food is priced there for a reason, and usually at the expense of working class communities.
What do you think?