Twenty-one million people are currently victims of modern day slavery. And most Americans use or consume products produced by slave labor — everything from pet food to sushi to cell phone parts–on a daily basis.
P.J. Tobia, host of PBS NewsHour’s newest podcast, “Shortwave,” recently reported on this horrifying practice, how it persists and the many ways it permeates modern life. Tobia spoke to Martha Mendoza, one of a team of AP reporters who uncovered a fishing business in Indonesia that relies on slave labor to net seafood that ends up in products, including Fancy Feast cat food, calamari and imitation crab. The men who catch the fish are kept in cages and compensated rarely, if at all. Since Tobia’s podcast originally aired in April, 550 of these men have been freed in response to Mendoza’s reporting.
Tobia also spoke to Maurice Middleberg, executive director of the NGO, Free the Slaves. Middleberg explained that the practice of slavery extends far beyond the tiny Indonesian island exposed by Mendoza and her colleagues. He also told Tobia that sexual slavery accounts for only around one fifth of slavery worldwide.
“About 70 to 80 percent of slavery is actually labor slavery,” he told Tobia. “They can’t leave, and the profits all go to the slaveholder, to the owner of whatever is the economic enterprise.”
How do people fall into slavery? What can the international community do to put a stop to the practice? How can consumers educate themselves to avoid products produced using slave labor? We addressed these questions and more in a Twitter chat.
Tobia (@PJTobia) joined the conversation, along with representatives of Free the Slaves (@FreetheSlaves) and Mary Rajkumar (@maryrajkumar), the Associated Press’ international enterprise editor. Read the full discussion below.