Friday, April 25, 2008

Slave Shrimp – Time To Buy American Again

On Wednesday, just a few days after my Passover post about contemporary slavery (see Let All People Go, April 18th), there was an important story on CNN about the horrors of the foreign shrimp trade – particularly shrimp harvested in and exported by Thailand. I learned that America gets a full 80% of its shrimp (the #2 most popular seafood in the USA after canned tuna) from abroad, and a good deal of that from Thailand – where, good authority has it, young women are routinely forced into indentured servitude to process the shrimp and are subjected to cruelty and violence to prevent them from trying to escape and punish them when they do (one young woman was severely beaten and had her head shaved to “make her an example” to her co-workers).

I had shrimp on my dinner menu for Wednesday and promptly examined my unopened bag of frozen shrimp – and sure enough, it was clearly marked as being from Thailand. I cooked 1/3 of the bag that night and will finish it over the course of two more dinners, because I can’t afford to waste it (and doing so would accomplish nothing) – but there’s no way in hell I’ll buy Thai or other foreign shrimp again.

Indeed, I am beyond weary of looking at the labels on everything I buy or want to buy and seeing the words “Made in China” (that’s the one we see most often, of course). I don’t feel any better when I see that products have come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and other “third world” nations where labor is cheap and human rights are an inconvenience. American workers have their troubles, to be sure, and as I said in Let All People Go, contemporary slavery is alive and well in America, too. But one has to start taking action somewhere.

I will stop supporting the export of American jobs and the importing of foreign goods whenever and wherever possible. I just bought an indoor, reversible, stove-top grill/griddle and found one made right here in the USA by a company named Lodge – and it was no more expensive than the ones made in China and sold with the name of a celebrity chef plastered all over them. From now on, I will be buying American shrimp (online if necessary) and I’ll be looking for other products, from groceries to clothing, from American producers.

Unfortunately, that’s no easy trick – but I’ve located a few Web sites that I hope will make it easier for me, and I’m pleased to share them with you:

Specifically for seafood, check out Wild American Shrimp, Wood’s Fisheries (based in Florida), Pearl/Louisiana Shrimpers, and Fish Ex Alaska Seafoods. For information about other American-made products, check out Made In and How Americans Can Buy American.

I also plan on contacting all the retailers I patronize, telling them of my preference for American-made goods and sharing with them whatever information I can gather about American producers. I’ll especially make every effort to support local/regional producers, particularly since here in NYC, we’re surrounded by fish and seafood from Long Island and fruit, vegetables and other food from New Jersey and Upstate New York (sorry, couldn’t find online resources for these). Lastly, I’m sending emails to all the Presidential candidates about this issue. It may not be a revolution, but it’s a step in the right direction.

1 comment:

Cynthia Bradley said...

Another great site for buying American-made products is check it out.