The silence on the story of human trafficking connected with slavery in the seafood industry is deafening.
Margie Mason of the Associated Press reported Tuesday that Indonesian police arrested seven suspects in an ongoing case.
“Five Thai boat captains and two Indonesian employees at Pusaka Benjina Resources, one of the largest fishing firms in eastern Indonesia, were taken into custody,” wrote Mason. “The arrests come after the AP reported on slave-caught seafood shipped from Benjina to Thailand, where it can be exported and enter the supply chains of some of America’s biggest food retailers.”
But for the investigative reporting by the Associated Press, these instances of slavery and human trafficking would have gone unnoticed, especially in the Western Hemisphere at the end of the global food supply chain.
American consumers don’t want to hear what goes on at the far end of the food supply chain. Using slave labor to fish is particularly egregious, and most people I meet don’t want to hear any of it. The focus is on the box, can, bag or piece of fruit or vegetable in front of them. Few want to dig very deep into where it comes from. We are the less as a society because of this prevalent American value.
I’m not a person who sees cause for alarm everywhere I look. I’ve been inside enough manufacturing and production operations during the last 40 years to know it requires oftentimes difficult work to make things we use every day. In most cases, there is a human impact with the means of production.
In the slow walk away from union representation since the Reagan era, much of what we learned about worker treatment has been abandoned by companies whose business model is to outsource or use subcontractors. That’s the immediate defense of Pusaka Benjina Resources: their subcontractors were responsible for any human trafficking and slavery. It is really no defense.
One should appreciate that the Associated Press is still willing to invest substantial resources in breaking stories like the slavery on Indonesian fishing vessels. Few others seem willing to do so as news organizations struggle to carve out a viable business niche, and as news and information gets blended into a vast soup of engaging, but largely irrelevant bits and packets transmitted with the speed of breaking news.
What’s a blogger to do? We begin like a fisher, setting sail on the sea of posts, articles, books, emails and letters that exist on electronic media. Waiting for what is relevant, what is news, and importantly, what matters. Not what matters to me, but what matters to all of us on this blue-green sphere.
What comes next is up to each of us.