Peeling shrimp can be difficult and tedious, but can you imagine doing it 16 hours a day against your will?
Burmese migrants of all ages, attempting to make a better life for themselves in Thailand, were tricked into enslavement, some at shrimp-peeling factories where they were abused and subject to long hours and dismal living conditions, according to a new report from the Associated Press.
“Like many migrants, they were lured from home by a broker with promises of good-paying jobs, and came without visas or work permits,” the AP reports.
The AP followed Tin Nyo Win, 22, and tracked loading trucks with shrimp from Gig Peeling Factory, where Tin Nyo Win was stationed. They found that the slave-peeled shrimp reached major U.S. supply chains and retailers such as Walmart, Whole Foods and Petco and restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden. Brands such as Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast also received shipments of the shrimp.
Gig, which has been closed since the investigation, is only one of the facilities accused of turning out slave-peeled shrimp in Thailand.
“Hundreds of shrimp peeling sheds are hidden in plain sight on residential streets or behind walls with no signs in Samut Sakhon, a port town an hour outside Bangkok. The AP found one factory that was enslaving dozens of workers, and runaway migrants led rights groups to the Gig shed and a third facility. All three sheds held 50 to 100 people each, many locked inside,” the AP reports.
The AP also reports that Thai shrimp exports, a $7 billion industry, reach parts of Europe and Asia.