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Has slave labour been implicated in Kiwi cat food supply chains?

  • News
  • March 27, 2015
  • Sarah Dunn
Has slave labour been implicated in Kiwi cat food supply chains?

The Associated Press released reports from a year-long investigation which found slaves, mostly from Burma, were being forced to catch fish in Indonesia under horrific conditions for little or no pay. Some of those involved were kept in cages while on shore to make sure they could not escape.

Their catch was shipped to Thailand before being distributed to a number of buyers, including one linked to Thai Union Manufacturing. The seafood processing company exports cat food products, including two commonly found in New Zealand – Nestle’s Fancy Feast and Mars brand Iams.

Fancy Feast is widely stocked in supermarkets, and Iams is a high-end product sold in specialist pet stores and vet clinics.

A statement from Thai Union Manufacturing has been widely reported. In it, the company calls the use of slave labour “utterly unacceptable” and says the supplier who passed on the slave-caught fish was “terminated” immediately.

"Consumers can rest assured that our current products are not tainted with the alleged trade supplier," Thai Union says. "This is to prove that Thai Union takes the issue of human rights violation extremely seriously."

The New Zealand Herald quoted Antoinette Laird, corporate public relations director for Pak'nSave and New World operator Foodstuffs, who said the company was taking the revelations seriously.

"Foodstuffs in no way, shape or form has ever or will ever knowingly stock a product that is the result of illegal business practices or slave labour," Ms Laird said. "With regard to Nestle and its Fancy Feast products stocked in our stores, we are aware that Nestle are working through their supply chain to identify any potential unlawful practices."

The Herald also reached a spokeswoman from Countdown, which also stocks Fancy Feast. She told the news outlet that Countdown was speaking with Nestle to better understand the situation.

The scandal appears to have not yet hit Fancy Feast or Iams particularly hard on social media yet, although Fancy Feast posted the below statements in response to two comments on Facebook.


 

Margaret Stuart, corporate and external relations manager for Nestle Oceania, says the issue is highly complex as the supply chain in question involves multiple ports and fishing vessels operating in international waters. She repeated Nestle's statement from Facebook, adding that the company's main seafood supplier in Thailand had begun working with an independent consulting firm to trace products through the different tiers of its supply chain to the ports of origin in Southeast Asia. 

"Such data will enable us to understand the scope of any potential labour concerns in our supply chain better, and help us to target our efforts to address any labour issues which are found more directly."

Mars New Zealand corporate affairs manager Vicki Hamilton says Mars acquired the Iams brand in August last year, and is still in the process of "integrating" the brands and applying Mars' policies, procedures and systems. She says this includes its commitment to respecting human rights in its supply chain.

Hamilton says Mars does not tolerate forced labour in any aspect of its supply chain, calling the practice "deplorable." She says the company's corporate commitment to sourcing sustainably-produced raw materials includes seeking to ensure that human rights are respected throughout our supply chain, and its supplier code of conduct expressly forbids forced labour or labour which does not meet the International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines.

Mars monitors the human rights practices of its direct suppliers, she says, scrutinising them through independent risk assessments, third party supplier audits and/or supplier self-assessments.

"We are concerned about the potential for human rights abuses to occur in areas of our multi-tiered supply chain where we do not have direct visibility," Hamilton says.

She supplied the below list of actions Mars has taken to "increase visibility" across its fish supply chain since the slavery story broke, saying Mars has:

  • Reached out to its Thailand-based fish processors to gain their assistance in establishing greater transparency into their sourcing. 
  • Met with the ILO to benefit from their recommendations on how enterprises can best contribute to improvement of the situation in Thailand.
  • Engaged with NGO partners to integrate their knowledge and experience into our efforts to further compliance with its code of conduct throughout our entire supply chain.
  • Begun development of additional policies and procedures to strengthen its corporate supplier code of conduct, including a recently-launched human rights policy.
  • Prioritised that in 2015, Mars will conduct a human rights impact assessment of its fish supply chain in Thailand in consultation with local stakeholders.


Based on the findings of the impact assessment, Hamilton says, Mars will take further action and engage with its business partners, civil society and the Thai government with a goal of ensuring that human rights are protected and respected. 

On Facebook, Iams made the below statement to a member of the public.

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This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

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  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.

 

Military-style semi-automatics ban announced

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • The Register team
Military-style semi-automatics ban announced

As of 3pm on March 21, a wide range of semi-automatic weapons have been reclassified under section 74A(c) of the Arms Act as requiring an E endorsement on a firearms license. This means they can no longer be sold to those with A-category gun licenses, and their purchase now requires police approval.

Read more
 
 

Retailers gather for insights at NZ Retail and The Register's breakfast

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • The Register
Retailers gather for insights at NZ Retail and The Register's breakfast

NZ Retail and The Register’s sales and marketing breakfast saw dozens of Kiwi retailers come together to network, sharing tips and tricks and absorbing expert advice.

Read more
 
 

Who stole Christmas?

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • Kelly Withers
Who stole Christmas?

Results are starting to trickle in from Christmas 2018/2019, and for many retailers, they're a little disappointing. Paydar chief executive and co-founder Kelly Withers explores the data.

Read more
 

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Chinese businesspeople raise millions for Christchurch victims

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • Radio New Zealand
Chinese businesspeople raise millions for Christchurch victims

A group of visiting Chinese businesspeople have raised $2.35 million for victims of the Christchurch mass shooting.

Read more
 
 
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Hunting & Fishing New Zealand voluntarily pulls military-style assault weapons from sale

  • News
  • March 20, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Hunting & Fishing New Zealand voluntarily pulls military-style assault weapons from sale

In the wake of the attack on Christchurch’s Muslim community on March 15, strong calls for changes to New Zealand’s gun last have been made. Trade Me was the first retailer to act, halting the sale of all semi-automatic weapons on its platform, and it has now been joined by Hunting & Fishing New Zealand.

Read more
 
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