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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.

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

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less