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Ships known for keeping slaves have been linked to pet food companies. Big ones.

The good news is knowing about it is half the battle.

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Waitt Foundation

Not all pet food is evil. But some of it might be.

The pet food supply chain is like a game of telephone, only the first player in that game is a sea full of migrants in shackles, often being forced to labor on ships in international waters for years.


"Modern slavery, pass it on? NO thanks!"

Companies known for keeping slaves have been linked to Iams, Meow Mix, and Fancy Feast.

Most of the little fish that go into some pet food are being caught by sea slaves. In Thailand and the surrounding area. On fishing boats that essentially exist outside any known law.

And there are even several pretty intense lawsuits happening. Here's a peek at one.

Oof. Screenshot of Donna de Rosa v. Tri-Union Seafoods, LLC.

The solution seems easy: verify that the supply chains aren't stocked from bad guys who enslave people and break all the laws. But because the ocean has no ruler, someone's gotta step in. However, first we gotta know about it.

Here are four things to get you started.

1. Know the story behind the people who are being enslaved.

Let's put the human back into human trafficking.

This is the story of Lang Long, a pet food sea slave.

Lang Long left his family's rice patch in Cambodia in search of a better life in construction in Thailand. He had to cut a weird deal with a trafficker to get across the border, but it was his chance!

Nope. Soon after arriving, he was imprisoned by armed men and sold at least twice to different fishing boats. Selling a man! Sounds like ... slavery.

Even Secretary of State John Kerry is hip to this:

I set it to skip ahead to the part where he starts talking about Lang Long!

Yes. I know it's not fun to say that word, but we have to call it what it is. This is the selling of people. This is slavery.

Sad fish is sad. Image via Benson Kua/Flickr.

And your cat's delicious goodies go right back to Lang Long, sea slave. Worst game of telephone ever.

"OMG nooo!"

2. Know where your pet food comes from.

Ask not what your pet food can do for you. Ask "Where is my pet food even from, and WTF is up with its supply chain?"

You'll find out what the pet food companies found out. You don't really know what's up with the supply chain! See below.

3. Know how much your favorite pet food company cares about this slavery stuff.

Many have good intentions, but they should add "no modern slavery in our ingredients" to the top of the list, dontcha think?

Unfortunately, your cat's pet food supplier might not yet have a system that keeps it from using sea slaves to feed Fifi the cat.

Why? Traceability. It's just not possible right now. The ocean system that enslaved Lang Long is essentially the Wild West in 2015.

"Most fishing vessels are exempt from international rules requiring the onboard tracking systems used by law enforcement."

Thanks for not poisoning me or the environment, pet food companies. P.S. Can you check on that slavery thing?

However, things are getting a little bit better:

"By 2020, [Mars, Inc., producer of Iams pet food] plans to use only non-threatened fish caught legally or raised on farms and certified by third-party auditors as not being linked to forced labor."

4. Know just how much your pet really needs to eat fish (at least right now).

Maybe your pet could lay off the pescatarianism for a bit until these pet food companies get it together?

Fishy pet food might not be all that great for Fifi anyway.

According to a 2013 paper by Kelly Scott Swanson, a professor of animal science at the University of Illinois:

"Often based on consumer demand rather than nutritional requirements, many commercial pet foods are formulated to provide nutrients in excess of current minimum recommendations, use ingredients that compete directly with the human food system, or are overconsumed by pets, resulting in food wastage and obesity."

Some pet food companies are actually choosing the same no-fish route. According to the New York Times report:

"Mars Inc., for example, which sold more than $16 billion worth of pet food globally in 2012, roughly a quarter of the world's market, has already replaced fishmeal in some of its pet food and will continue in that direction."

Fifi doesn't HAVE to give up fish. But at least now you know why she might wanna.

This is a lot to take in, I know! Especially since we've been living in the dark about this for so long.

But shackle-free pet food isn't far away if we all step into the light.

With a simple bit of knowledge, every pet owner can be a part of ending human trafficking.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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