Greenpeace New Zealand activists shut down cat food giant Whiskas’ factory in Whanganui today after it claims Mars confirmed there was a connection to slavery in its supply chain. Mars has fired back and says it doesn’t tolerated forced labour in any aspect of its manufacturing.rn
Six activists chained themselves to a Greenpeace truck this morning and blockaded the entrance to the factory in Whanganui.
Activists also put up signs on the factory’s walls alongside cat pictures saying ‘Stop destructive fishing’, ‘stop human rights abuses’ and ‘stop bad tuna’.
The factory is the hub of Whiskas’ Australian operations and creates half a million cat food pouches daily. The factory sources its tuna from Thai Union, a seafood company that has been linked to slavery and destructive fishing methods.
The controversy surrounding Whiskas’ supply chains began in July last year, when the New York Times broke a story about Thai Union’s use of forced labour.
A former slave fisherman claimed he was held captive on a vessel that supplied to Thai Union.
A separate study of the Thailand seafood industry including Thai Union by Nestlé in 2015 found indications of forced labour, trafficking and child labour among land and sea-based workers.
Greenpeace New Zealand campaigner Kate Simcock slammed Whiskas’ parent company Mars Petcare, saying it has known about human rights abuses in its supply chain for at least ten months.
“The oceans don’t belong to industrial fishing companies, they belong to all of us,” Simcock says. “Thai Union is the world’s biggest exporter of canned tuna, they have products everywhere. Consumers, retailers, and customers expect them to fish sustainably and respect human rights.”
Mars Petcare has released a statement responding to Greenpeace and says it doesn’t tolerate forced labour in any aspect of its supply chain.
It says it is extremely concerned about allegations of abuse taking place in the Thai fishing industry, but it needs to “engage with” the industry rather than leave it to improve conditions.
“We believe that as a global business we have a responsibility to contribute to the change that the Thai fishing industry needs to make to become a reliable and sustainable supply chain. As such, it is vital that we engage with, rather than abandon the industry, to improve conditions and to stamp out any human rights abuses. We do not believe that targeting one supplier is driving the change needed in the region.”
Mars Petcare said it was working with third-party organisations to improve its supply chain within Thailand. The results will be published in July via a publically released plan.
It also said it is in talks with Greenpeace about this plan of action, so it doesn’t understand the protest launched today.