prawns

Normally i talk about the movement of people across borders and around the world, but that movement is related to a million other things, largely because of economic pressures. So i found this article, where the author, Fred Pearce, of the Gaurdian follows his prawn curry around the world absolutely fascinating, as it shows how we are not the only global economic migrants – our shrimp, our beef and our fruits and veg are migrants too.

The shrimp-tracking journey began for Pearce with a prawn merchant (can you say “prawn baron?) in Manchester, Iqbal Ahmed of the Bangladeshi community, and ended with a prawn farmer named Amal:

Ahmed’s company, Seamark, supplies tiger prawns to thousands of curry houses and pubs across Britain. Most are bred in ponds dug in thousands of square kilometres of former mangrove swamps on the delta of the river Ganges. In the past two decades, big landlords have turned Bangladesh into one of the world’s largest producers of tiger prawns.

This is bad ecologically, but it is also bad socially. Meeting Amal, I collided with a world of poverty, debt dependency, usurious middlemen and ruthless gangs, known locally as musclemen, paid by the big landlords to keep people like Amal in check, or throw them off their land. One gang was threatening to stop water from the river reaching Amal’s pond unless he paid a fat bribe.

I’m not a vegetarian, and I know there are also ecologically unsound practices involved in the production of non-meat products, so I’m not entirely convinced that being a veggie for political reasons is a real solution. But I keep coming across more and more stories that convince me that tracking and caring for where our food comes from, knowing how it’s made, is one of the keys to a lot of our environmental, economic and social problems. I haven’t gone all vegan, locally grown, organic, sustainably-produced yet, but I am starting to get the occasionally guilty pang when I run across stories like this. I may give in yet.

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