Nestle Admits To Slavery In Thailand

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
Thai Fish MarketThai Fish Market

The Fancy Feast cat food intended to end up in your cat's bowl may have a higher cost than you may have realized.

Nestle, the company that owns Fancy Feast, admitted in a lawsuit that its products had been created using slave labor in Thailand, The Guardian reported. Thailand’s seafood industry, which supplies the materials for Fancy Feast, is allegedly powered by abused and trafficked people -- often migrants from other countries.

Nestle said it’s impossible to avoid being exposed to slave labor when buying fish from Thailand.

“As we’ve said consistently, forced labor and human rights abuses have no place in our supply chain,” said Magdi Batato, Nestle’s executive vice-president in charge of operations, in a statement. “Nestle believes that by working with suppliers we can make a positive difference to the sourcing of ingredients.”

Nestle made the admission fighting a child labor lawsuit in Africa's Ivory Coast -- a problem the company has noted on its website. “No company sourcing cocoa from [Ivory Coast] can guarantee they have completely removed the risk of children working on small farms in their supply chain,” the site states. “Nestle is no different, but we are determined to tackle the problem.”

The company went on to say it has "zero tolerance for trafficking or slavery” and that it reports all evidence of it to the authorities. Some believe the admission about slave labor in Thailand and decision to investigate is remarkable on its own.

“Nestle’s decision to conduct this investigation is to be applauded,” said Nick Grono, the chief executive of the nonprofit Freedom Fund. “If you’ve got one of the biggest brands in the world proactively coming out and admitting that they have found slavery in their business operations, then it’s potentially a huge game-changer and could lead to real and sustained change in how supply chains are managed.”

Others are less satisfied with Nestle’s course of action. “For me there is a big issue with one part of Nestle saying, ‘OK we have been dragged along with everyone else to face the issue of slavery in Thailand and so let’s take the initiative and do something about it,’ and at the same time fighting tooth and nail through the courts to avoid charges of child slavery in its core operations in the Ivory Coast,” said Andrew Wallis, chief executive of Unseen UK, an anti-trafficking group focused on the role of large businesses like Nestle.

“By the time Nestle owned up to slavery in the Thai seafood industry, it was accepted knowledge. It’ll be a brave new world when companies are actually doing the real investigation to probe into part of their supply chains that have remained outside the public domain.

“We need to move into a space where we say, ‘We’re all guilty; let’s get past that to a place where we can properly address the problem’ -- and I don’t think we’re there yet.”

The outcome of the lawsuit on child labor is still pending.

Sources: The Guardian, Nestle / Photo credit: [email protected]/Flickr 

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