The New York Times has released a startling article titled “Sea Slaves,” detailing the horrific conditions that many workers face in the Thai forage-fishing industry.
The relevance to you? These types of small, inexpensive fish — jack mackerel and herring — are sold primarily to the United States for use in canned pet food and livestock feed.
Here are some of the unbelievable conditions at sea:
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- Grueling labor (often forced) for up to 20 hours a day on unregistered boats that stay out at sea for sometimes years
- People, including boys as young as 15, held in cages or in chains
- Men traded and sold to other captains
- Deckhands given so little fresh water to drink that they’re forced to steal “foul-tasting ice from the barrels of fish”
- Open skin wounds left untreated, causing constant infections
- Sick people simply thrown overboard
- Crew members brutally beaten over small mistakes — or worse, beheaded
Not enough of us think about where the ingredients in our pet’s food has come from — but chances are, the fish originated in the South China Sea, where these miserable boats venture.
“Motherships” with enormous refrigerated coolers come by and pick up the fish from these boats, which means that when the cargo arrives at port, it’s “virtually impossible to know whether it was caught legally … [or] by shackled migrants,” according to The New York Times.
Many of the fish wind up at a subsidiary of Thai Union Frozen Products, which last year alone sent “more than 28 million pounds of seafood-based cat and dog food for some of the top brands sold in America including Iams, Meow Mix and Fancy Feast.”
Mars Inc. and Nestlé Purina Respond
Pet food manufacturing giant Mars Inc. says it has started phasing out questionable fish sources and by 2020 hopes to have replaced them with proven non-threatened fish or fish farms.
Likewise, Nestlé Purina PetCare is also working to ensure that its products are not manufactured with forced labor, according to Lisa K. Gibby, vice president of corporate communications. She adds: “This is neither an easy nor a quick endeavor.”
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Dave Baker, editor in chief of Petful, contributed to this article.