Turning a blind eye: 21st Century slavery served for dinner
Turning a blind eye: 21st Century slavery served for dinner
What is life worth?
Is life something magnificent and precious with a deep purpose in which everyone of us is to be equally honoured – OR can it be bought and sold?
When asked, we would agree emphatically that slavery and human trafficking goes against every cell and particle of our being, yet there are even more slaves in the world today than ever before. Even more than in four centuries of the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade from Africa.
Here is the crunch. Slavery has never ended and we still allow it to proliferate in our ‘civilised’ 21st century world.
William Wilberforce, the powerful voice for the abolition of slavery in Britain, addressed parliament with a Bill on 12th May, 1789, concluding his famous speech with:
"Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way . . . but you can never say again that you did not know."
Despite the clear foresight in their voices and the immense achievements of such inspirational leaders as Abraham Lincoln and Wilberforce, slavery has never been truly abolished. It has merely morphed into other torturous shapes and forms.
According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, there are today nearly 46 million people, our brothers, living as slaves – as pieces of owned property sold in bondage. Captured, forced to work as labourers, miners, factory workers, child soldiers, child brides and prostitutes, these people are completely reliant upon their traffickers for their daily survival. They receive little to no wages, have no say in where they go or what they do, and are physically prevented from leaving.[i]
So we do know . . . and it is well documented.
This is not 1789 when it was legal to ship a cargo of chained humans across the sea for months with the expectation that many would die on the way. So why, over 220 years later, are we still talking about slavery?
The incidence of modern day slavery in Britain, Scandinavia and Australia registers as almost negligible. When compared to the current incidence of global slavery these countries look squeaky clean. But are they?
Picked and packed by slave labour
Do we realise that the industries in Australia supplying our largest supermarket chains and fast food outlets have been subjecting the migrant workers who pick, pack, and process our meat, fruit and vegetables to abusive treatment and slave-like conditions? "Almost every fresh product that you pick up... will have passed through the hands of workers who have been fundamentally exploited," says an Australian Workers Union Official.
Have we fully clocked that this means that the food we put on our tables is produced by slave labour sanctioned by our own country, in our own supermarkets, the places we visit every week?
If we consider this, our normal shopping expeditions are not as harm-free as we think. But do we want to look past our dinner plates and see what we are truly serving up for dinner?
"First-world country, third-world bondage." Kerry O’Brien introduced the ABC’s television program, Four Corners, addressing Australia’s unlawful, immoral labour exploitation with this exposing and sobering headline. [4th May, 2015]
Young Asian and European students and migrant workers enter Australia on legal ‘417 working holiday visas’, designed as part of a ‘Cultural Exchange Program’. But when they arrive they are unwittingly channelled to unscrupulous labour hire contractors and sold on to farms and factories responsible for growing the fresh food for Australian stores and consumers. "Before I came here I thought Australia is a country of equality," said a young Asian worker, lured to this Exchange Program.
A Queensland parliamentary committee inquiry June 2016, "received evidence of the “manipulation and mistreatment” of vulnerable, particularly overseas workers, including sexual harassment and requiring sexual favours to obtain work."
The 2016 Fair Work Ombudsman Report also found that sexual harassment and withholding passports without permission was common practice, and that, "not only was it common for workers to be underpaid, but some were not paid their wages at all."
In their investigation Four Corners reported that workers at the Adelaide Baiada Chicken Farm work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week in sub-human conditions where they are not allowed to have a drink of water or go to the toilet for hours on end. They are paid approximately $8 an hour when the basic legal award wage is $25 an hour – with the surplus being paid to a middle man – the Labour Hire company. The chickens from Baiada, branded Steggles and Lilydale, stock the shelves of our major supermarket chains – Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, IGA and Costco. The ABC investigation reported that a similar situation prevails with D’Vine Ripe and Corvino Farms who also supply fruit and vegetables to the same chains.
The Labour Hire companies do all the ‘dirty work’ and so the supermarkets and farmers can conveniently turn a blind eye to their part in the provision of slave labour.
Peter Hockings of the Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers has testified that these shonky Labour Hire Contractors have "a very strong stranglehold on the labour market for our industry," so that ethical farmers who treat their workers well and pay the full wage are unceremoniously dropped by the supermarkets.
And all the while we hear Coles proudly and cheerily advertising on national TV the ever-plummeting ‘Down Down’ of prices while saying that they are more committed than ever to "offering our customers great value and great quality."
What ‘quality’ can ever come from slave labour, the exploitation of others?? And how have we been able to come to accept and justify this in our way of life?
Labour law and migration expert Dr Joanna Howe said that the ‘417 Visa Program’ has been corrupted so severely that our global reputation is under threat. She stated, "You know we just turn a blind eye."
How can we possibly plead ignorance?
- What does the law actually mean if slave profiteers are permitted to roam the seas of life like rapacious pirates?
- And what about us, who in our hearts know the truth but who hide away in swaddled comfort and refrain from speaking out?
- We turn a blind eye, comforting ourselves that this kind of thing happens ‘somewhere else’ and pretend that it is not directly relevant to the way we conduct our daily life.
In fact, this stance in life has become so acceptable in our public domain that there are bumper stickers on cars proudly proclaiming, ‘I don’t want to know’!
But what if even the most delicate turn we make, the slightest awareness we bring to face this terrible picture allows a healing of some sort of occur?
As we let ourselves watch and observe what we are afraid of most, our eyes can open to the responsibility we all have as a humanity to see what is truly going on. And our body and the words we speak in our every day, then become a call to see truth and be truth, as we can look upon the devastation of this crime and know that we all have a part to play.
That slavery still exists, that even one person is able to inflict slavery upon another or upon themselves, points to the fact that we are still entrapped in the ways of slavery and so this consciousness continues to infiltrate our every way – in all our relationships, personal and global.
What if the way we run our personal lives and relationships is supporting and even feeding the existence of global slavery?
If we were to honestly see and acknowledge that, in very real but perhaps subtler terms, slavery and abuse exists in our own relationships and in our own backyards, we would be on the way to healing a world-wide atrocity. Every ounce of the way we behave, every thought we think, every abuse we dismiss, every time we speak up – or not . . . . adds to the mire or lifts humanity.
From domestic slavery to subjugation or domination, personal body image, depression or substance abuse . . . even the food we eat . . . what are we enslaved to?
- How many of us are truly free and equal?
- Or is the ‘freedom’ of the ‘free world’ we so fondly champion actually not true freedom at all, but in reality a hot-bed of domestic subservience and domination, work place bullying, and victim-hood – germinating the fertile ground for slavery to proliferate?
And what if it is our blindness to, and acceptance of, this false freedom that spawns the complacency that has us resigning ourselves to the way the world is?
Until we reclaim our true, powerful and equal nature and extract ourselves from this complacency we will be trapped in the bonds of our own creation and the crime of slavery will continue.
Why are we still Slaving Away?
Based on and Inspired by the teachings of the Ageless Wisdom and Serge Benhayon