Big Heart Pet Brands investigated over alleged slave labor
Law firm says forced labor used to catch fish used in Meow Mix products
Plaintiffs law firm Hagens Berman is investigating Big Heart Pet Brands for allegedly importing fish-based pet food from suppliers who use slave labor.
Hagens Berman alleges that Big Heart Pet Brands imports pet food from Thai Union Frozen Products. According to U.S. customs documents, Thai Union has shipped more than 28 million pounds of seafood-based pet food for some of the top brands sold in the United States.
“Based on our investigation and media reports, Hagens Berman attorneys believe that Thai Union relies on forced or slave labor to catch the fish used in fish-based Meow Mix-brand wet cat foods. These men and boys are victims of many human rights violations: they are trafficked from countries neighboring Thailand, sold to fishing boats by brokers and smugglers, and forced to work under physical violence, emotional abuse, and verbal threats. Reports by the New York Times and The Guardian have recently shed light on these inhumane working conditions,” the law firm said in a press release.
Hagens Berman says that, in violation of California law, Big Heart Pet Brands does not disclose that its supplier, Thai Union, employs these forced labor practices and instead continues to profit from the slave labor that supplies the fish.
Nestle and Mars previously have been sued by consumers accusing the companies of failing to disclose the use of forced labor on boats that supply the fish they use in pet food.
And now several lawmakers are looking to address the problem. In August, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., proposed legislation aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in corporate supply chains. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., has sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to put more focus on illegal fishing and on preventing “trafficking and slavery in the fishing industry.”
More than 2,000 enslaved fishermen have been rescued in 2015 as a result of an Associated Press investigation into forced labor on fishing boats in Asia. A multimillion-dollar Thai-Indonesian fishing business has been shut down, at least nine people have been arrested, and two fishing boats have been seized.
The men saved from the forced labor came from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos and have been identified or repatriated. Hundreds more have been quietly returned home, so the companies running the fishing businesses can avoid human trafficking allegations.