Humanity is Disposable: The Worth of Slaves

How much is a human life worth? What price would you put on the life of the person sitting beside you? Are some people worth less than others? Does the fact that there are over 7.6 billion people alive today (Worldometer.info 2018) affect the final price?

Now, what do you think when I say it was better to be a slave in the 1800s than it is today?

Everyone knows the saying ‘money is the root of all evil’. Well, it holds some weighty truth. Money is tied to many injustices: corruption, colonialism, environmental degradation and slavery. First, however, I want to illustrate a point with the graph below. Note that monetary values (Hjardar 2017; FTS 2018) were converted to AUS$ using XE Currency Converter.

Capture

Notice the sharp decline? In short, a human slave today costs about AUS$120, significantly less than just over 3 centuries ago.  

Why the dramatic change? For one, victims are easier to ensnare and transport (FTS 2018). Globally, an estimated 800 million experience extreme poverty (UNDP 2018). Indeed, the poor face the highest risk of becoming slaves (Androff 2011), as I have discussed before. There are also more slaves today than ever before, an estimated 40.3 million (ILO & WFF 2017, p. 9). In blunt market terms, increased supply equals cheaper prices.

The consequences are severe. Past slaves were arguably better off: being so expensive made slaves investments worth maintaining, protecting even (FTS 2018), though all slavery is an injustice. Cheap slaves, conversely, are as disposable as paper cups. Slaves who are injured or sick or flight risks are killed, often without so much as a burial, and easily replaced (Bales 2012).

Still, poor treatment due to low prices is not the only ‘evil root’ money has planted in slavery. Slavery was once seen by many societies as an economically viable trade. Indeed, modern traffickers make US$150 billion in profits annually (FTS 2018). Compare this to a human slave’s average price: US$90 or AUS$120 (FTS 2018). 

Yet, slavery no longer means simply owning someone, but “big profits and cheap lives” (Kevin Bales 2012, p. 28). Humans are reduced to mere money-making tools. Some companies, knowingly or unknowingly (coming back to ignorance, as I have discussed), profit from using slave labour to produce goods. Goods that we consume. The chocolate industry’s use of child slavery (BBC 2010) is one example, Thailand’s fishing industry another (HRW 2018). Animals too are enslaved and maltreated in pursuit of profit as with donkeys worked literally to the bone in Nepal brick kilns (Animal Nepal 2013).

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Nike too was implicated in slavery: image from Alex (2006)

How can any life be reduced to such a price? This itself is an injustice, even disregarding the other injustices exacerbated by profit driven slavery. We can begin to right this by pressuring companies to ensure there are no slaves in their supply chains, but this is a beginning only (ASI 2018). Much more still needs to be done.

 

References:

Alex 2006, ‘Slavery’, image, Flickr, viewed 2 May 2018, <https://www.flickr.com/photos/svoalex/261136098/in/photolist-p5oEw-8kyrDg-26DDZay-26F1kFM-8KdAbz-aBra7L-91knVs-59A6Dk-vtwYX-vtz4q-4Q2qER-qDrAxk-9zX4xh-kH5CFy-91koqN-9zVMy7-2bwUZk-faqq3G-xwqiRq-xwx6mF-wS2eb1-5tVjHo-vtzcD-qZZm69-9zWRHL-5nQEn6-8L3s6w-5URomw-9zTR8t-vtz8F-ciUUey-9zV4Fg-dSU5yy-9zWHa5-vtzeh-9zVL65-nqegmH-9zW6Js-vtwYi-9zSFsx-bEYMAv-R2bRq8-9zXg6o-9zV8dK-vtzer-k6p1p-bydaF8-9zXav1-9zWWjQ-vtz36>.

Androff, D.K. 2011, ‘The problem of contemporary slavery: An international human rights challenge for social work’, International Social Work, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 209-222.

Animal Nepal, 2013, ‘Animal Nepal shocked by conditions in New Bhairab brick factory’, Animal Nepal’s Blog, viewed 24 April 2018, <https://animalnepal.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/animal-nepal-shocked-by-conditions-in-tika-bhairab-brick-factory/>.

Anti-Slavery International (ASI) 2018, ‘Slavery in supply chains’, Anti-slavery, viewed 2 May 2018, <https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/slavery-in-global-supply-chains/>.

Bales, K. 2012, ‘The New Slavery’, Disposable people: new slavery in the global economy, University of California Press, Berkeley, pp. 26-47.

Free The Slaves (FTS) 2018, ‘Slavery Today’, Free the Slaves, viewed 2 May 2018, < https://www.freetheslaves.net/about-slavery/slavery-today/>.

Hjardar, k. 2017, ‘Viking Society’, Vikings: Raiders from the Sea, Casemate Publishers & Book Distributors, LLC, Havertown, pp. 15-66.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) 2018, ‘Thailand: Forced Labor, Trafficking Persist in Fishing Fleets’, Human Rights Watch, viewed 2 May 2018, < https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/23/thailand-forced-labor-trafficking-persist-fishing-fleets>.

International Labour Organization & Walk Free Foundation (ILO & WFF) 2017, Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage, International Labour Office, Geneva, pp. 1-65.

BBC 2010, ‘Tracing the bitter truth of chocolate and child labour’, BBC, viewed 2 May 2018, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_8583000/8583499.stm>.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2018, ‘No 1: Poverty’, United Nations Development Programme, viewed 2 May 2018, < www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-1-no-poverty.html>.

Worldometers.info 2018, ‘Current World Population’, worldometers, viewed 2 May 2018, <http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/>.

XE Currency Converter 2018, ‘XE Currency Converter’, XE Currency Converter, 2 May 2018, < https://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/>.

 

 

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Injustice Beyond Freedom

The first step to helping victims of slavery is to free them. An obvious step, I know. Yet, how many of you think about the after? Think about lingering trauma of being a child soldier or the impact of losing a hand in slave mines?  I have mentioned before that slavery is intertwined with other injustices in how victims come to be. I say it again now regarding the injustices that freed slaves suffer from slavery’s lingering effects. Below is a list of some of these injustices. 

1. Societal Disintegration

Throughout history many populations have been enslaved with large groups of people often forcibly removed as part of the slave trade. This can and has resulted in the disintegration or breakdown of affected societies and cultures. For example, the slave trade in Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is argued to be one key factor in the collapse of its Indigenous society (Hunt & Lipo, 2009).

2. Racism

Race based slavery, even when abolished, can result in discrimination against former victims if ideas of racial supremacy originally justifying slavery persist. A well-known example is African-Americans’ treatment after their emancipation.  This included segregation, attempts to hinder their right to vote and lynching, as explored in BBC Four’s confronting 2007 documentary below (Revise History 2016):

3. Mental Illness

Former slaves often suffer from mental illness ranging from anxiety to social phobia to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This article (Nickerson 2017) recounts many former UK slaves’ struggles with paranoia, drug addiction and depression. There are some happy endings: Lukas and Giorgos (both aliases) were once victims of forced labour and suffer PTSD, but now the former attends university whilst the latter has secured a job and home (Nickerson 2017).  Yet, many endings are unhappy. Furthermore, the mentally  ill are subjected to high rates of stigma and discrimination in both high and low-income countries (Ashenai et al. 2014). 

Mental health problems are largely ignored in former non-human slaves despite evidence showing that animals too experience PTSD (Akugizibwe et al. 2011). For those interested in animal’s experiences of PTSD, Duggan and Maudsley’s (2018) article is a good start.

4. Poor Physical Health

Slavery has many lasting, adverse impacts on physical health.  For example, sex slaves can contact HIV/AIDS, which has no cure even if slaves are freed (Decker et al. 2009). Likewise, some slaves can lose their limbs (Kiss & Zimmerman 2017), a permanent injury that opens them up to the stigma and ableism the physically disabled experience in many societies.

Former animal slaves also suffer. This article (Animal Nepal 2013) discusses how donkey’s rescued from brick kiln’s can suffer blindness and saddle-sores, showing photos of one literally exposing the bone of a donkey’s spine. Yet, this issue receives less attention than harm to human slaves. 

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Slavery’s physical effects linger (The Brook 2013)

Slavery involves compounding injustice, which continues even after the chains have been broken and victims freed. It is important to remember this, especially when we act to end slavery. 

 

References:

Akugizibwe, T., Ajarova, L., Durham, D.L., Ferdowsian, H.R., Kimwele, C., Kranendonk, G., Johnson, C.M., Mulcahy, J.B. & Otali, E. 2011, ‘Signs of mood and anxiety disorders in chimpanzees’, PLoS One, vol. 6, no. 6.

Animal Nepal, 2013, ‘Animal Nepal shocked by conditions in New Bhairab brick factory’, Animal Nepal’s Blog, viewed 24 April 2018, <https://animalnepal.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/animal-nepal-shocked-by-conditions-in-tika-bhairab-brick-factory/>.

Ashenai, L., Evans-Lacko, S., Koschorke, M., Semrau, M. & Thornicroft, G. 2014, ‘Stigma and discrimination relation to mental illness in low- and middle- income countries’, Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 382-394.

Decker, M.R., Dharmadhikari, A.S., Gupta, J., Raj, A. & Silverman, J.G. 2009, ‘Tuberculosis and HIV: a global menace exacerbated via sex trafficking’, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, vol. 13, no. 5, pp. 543-546.

Duggan, G. & Maudsley, D. 2018, ‘New research shows that elephants and other animals can suffer from PTSD’, CBC, viewed 24 April 2018, < www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/m_blog/new-research-shows-that-elephants-and-other-animals-can-suffer-from-ptsd>.

Hunt, T.L. & Lipo, C.P. 2009, ‘Revisiting Rapa Nui (Easter Island) “Ecocide”’, Pacific Science, vol. 63, no. 4, pp. 601-616.

Kiss, L. & Zimmerman, C. 2017, ‘Human trafficking and exploitation: A global health concern’, PLOS Medicine, vol. 14, no. 11.

Nickerson, J. 2017, ‘Slavery trafficking victims crippled by fear in UK’, Al Jazeera, viewed 24 April 2018, <https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/12/slavery-trafficking-victims-crippled-fear-uk-161231111517043.html>.

Revise History 2016, ‘Racism, A History 1 – Slavery To Segregation’, documentary, YouTube, viewed 24 April 2018, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juJTSRgUZug>.

The Brook 2013, ‘Brick Kiln donkeys face the most extreme working conditions, excruciating injuries and disease’, image, Occupy For Animals, viewed 24 April 2018, <www.occupyforanimals.net/nepal–brick-kiln-donkeys-face-the-most-extreme-working-conditions-excruciating-injuries-and-disease.html>.

 

 

 

 

Ignoring Evil? How We Think About Slavery

Reading the word ‘slave’ what is the first thing you think? It is probably related to these: sex trafficking, the transatlantic African slave trade and African-American slaves. Am I wrong? How many of you thought of the Incan slaves or men in forced labour today? The prevalent view of slavery today seems to be tied to these three things, often neglecting other aspects. This is an injustice itself.

It also forms the focus of today’s post: the injustices that surround our approaches to slavery. Martian Luther King once said:

“To ignore evil is to become accomplice to it.”

His point stands regarding slavery. This I explore below. 

  1. Neglecting or Ignoring Aspects of Slavery

I based my beginning prediction off several things. Firstly, scholarly emphasis on slavery heavily addresses the transatlantic African slave trade and African-American slaves (Androff 2011). Modern day slavery has only recently become a prominent focus, with sex trafficking receiving the most attention (Androff 2011). Indeed, when researching, much of the academic literature I come across falls into these categories. Furthermore, finding information on certain aspects, like white slaves in history, can be like pulling teeth. 

The media often mirrors this trend. News about forced labour has also become prominent. Likewise, certain victim types are often preferred: female, children, coloured. How often do you see headlines like ‘He Promised me a better life then forced me into prostitution…(Cumming & Rose 2017) compared to ‘British men forced into ‘modern slavery’…’ (Holt 2012)?

I am not criticising those addressing these instances of slavery. Rather, other aspects of slavery that should not be dismissed in lieu of this often are. Yet, sex slaves only form 12% of today’s victims and males still make up 29% of all slaves (ILO & WWF 2017). Furthermore, all instances of slavery are bad.

  1. Ignoring Slavery Entirely

More extremely, slavery may be ignored completely. Governments might deny slavery’s existence as with Thailand’s fishing industry acknowledged in this Human Rights Watch (2018) documentary:

Likewise, slavery can be ignored by police, as in the UK where there is a lack of recording of slavery-related crimes reported leaving victims without justice (IASC 2016). Sometimes, as this article (Rose 2017) highlights, victims are charged with other crimes like illegal immigration.

Academics sometimes overlook slavery to further certain arguments. Explanations for the collapse of Rapa Nui’s (Easter Island) indigenous society is an example. It was popularly claimed deforestation was the cause (Hunt & Lipo 2009). Yet, this claim ignores evidence pointing to the Indigenous peoples’ enslavement, alongside introduced disease, as primary causes for the population’s decimation (Hunt & Lipo 2009). 

Then there is the question of animal slavery Does it exist? (I believe so, which I argue in the linked post.)  

 

7435342382_c32ca3c090_z (1)
Slavery: what do you think of? (Alancards 2012)

 

Ignoring slavery is clearly an injustice that persists today. As such, we need to ask ourselves if we are accomplices to it – acknowledging the problem is the first step towards achieving justice.

 

References:

Alancards 2012, ‘Liverpool Exchange Flags Slavery’, flickr, viewed 8 April 2018, <https://www.flickr.com/photos/48315167@N05/7435342382/in/photolist-ck35fj-eh7f34-rfmvac-gfVRAB-b3P1Tn-dNqvaX-4yc74p-5XWFHr-7doYVY-Ay4m2-76j3kg-8wBPkZ-6A3Qm7-qECD8b-TU8YBd-758LPw-U3WyrY-yyjUM-4E3Ysx-dyDHJt-a5AeWP-5Nr51h-235EPJh-apzo9q-nK3SyX-bC3fSR-pu9Gma-bxYxmm-jPMTkx-ehnk35-ctKMe7-66asbc-4VTKUE-ggZSZr-99ozCk-3woiex-aBra7L-C6ZGBH-4s5Shc-o7Je7x-65SY4q-4w2CHx-FWxvQK-ydBnV-bpPSRZ-CW6qPt-homLAr-8HtLC6-E4v1W-Fwqdbs>.

Androff, D.K. 2011, ‘The problem of contemporary slavery: An international human rights challenge for social work’, International Social Work, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 209-222.

 Cumming, E. & Rose, E. 2017, ‘He promised me a better life then forced me into prostitution. If I refused, eh said my children would die’, Evening Standard, 7 April 2018, <https://www.standard.co.uk/news/modern-slavery/he-promised-me-a-better-life-then-forced-me-into-prostitution-if-i-refused-he-said-my-children-would-a3632581.html>.

Holt, A. 2012, ‘British men forced into ‘modern slavery’ abroad’, BBC, viewed 7 April 2018, < www.bbc.com/news/uk-16836065>.

Human Rights Watch 2017, ‘Thailand: Forced Labor, Trafficking Persist in Fishing Fleets’, documentary, YouTube, viewed 24 April 2018, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FbrfgRmfyI&gt;. 

Hunt, T.L. & Lipo, C.P. 2009, ‘Revisiting Rapa Nui (Easter Island) “Ecocide”’, Pacific Science, vol. 63, no. 4, pp. 601-616.

Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (IASC) 2016, Annual Report 2015-2016, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, UK, pp. 1-47.

International Labour Organization & Walk Free Foundation (ILO & WFF) 2017, Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage, International Labour Office, Geneva, pp. 1-65.

Rose, E. 2017, ‘’Damning; report finds police failed Britain’s modern slaves, dropping cases early and even prosecuting victims’, Evening Standard, viewed 7 April 2018, <https://www.standard.co.uk/news/modern-slavery/damning-report-finds-police-failed-britains-modern-slaves-dropping-cases-early-and-even-prosecuting-a3665911.html>.

The Making of Slaves: Child Slavery

Over 25% of slaves today are children (ESN 2018). Child slavery only specifies that the victim must be a person under 18 (ESN 2018) and can encompass anything from forced labour to child soldiers. Yet, how do children fall prey to such an injustice? The answer lies in the existence of other injustices that makes them vulnerable to exploitation by slavers. From here, this post will be divided up into sections to briefly explore each vulnerability that leads to child slavery. 

1. Birth

One road to slavery is being born to parents who are already permanent slaves. This intergenerational passing on of the ‘slave’ status is called chattel slavery (Androff 2011) and is seen throughout history as with African-American slaves.

2. Poverty

By poverty I mean a “lack of necessities” (Adesina 2014, p. 167) or the basics needed for survival: food, shelter, medicine and so on. In 2013 over 700 million people were living in extreme poverty (UN 2017).

 Those who are poor often seek to better their standing, but their desperation makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Human traffickers often lure victims, including children, with promises of non-existent jobs. They then use coercion, force and/or debt bondage to keep individuals in the slave trade (Adesina 2014). Poverty can also drive parents to sell children they cannot provide for to traffickers or send them to ‘agencies’ fronting for traffickers, as in Nigeria (Adesina 2014). 

Notably, economic vulnerability has today become a larger risk factor of enslavement than ethnicity (Androff 2011).

3. Conflict within or between countries

Throughout history, conflict has often lead to the enslavement of the losers including children.  Human trafficking, including of children, is also known to increase during humanitarian crises caused by conflict (Cattaneo & Obertová 2018). Armed conflict creates a need for soldiers, which many militias and some governments fill with children through force or coercion (CSI 2018). Poverty and loss of family from conflict can also drive children to become soldiers (CSI 2018). Other children are taken by traffickers who take advantage of mass refugee migration and the immense vulnerabilities refugees face (Cattaneo & Obertová 2018).

4. Homelessness

Today, there are an estimated 150 million street children (UNESCO 2017), including those who work and/or live semi-permanently or permanently on the street. This is also ignoring the millions of refugees who are rendered homeless.

For children especially, homelessness greatly increases their vulnerability to the slave trade (Berger Cardoso & Fong 2010). A major factor here is lack of guardian supervision, and thus security, of homeless youth. This results in children being kidnapped or coerced by slavers, as in America where street children often become sex slaves (Berger Cardoso & Fong 2010).

Runaways are likewise at extremely high risk of child trafficking (Cattaneo & Obertová 2018). In America, for example, 1 in 6 of 18,000 child runaways reported in 2016 – a majority from social services, suggesting that flawed government systems are also a risk factor – were thought to be sex slaves (Cattaneo & Obertová 2018).

 

Modern slavery: Haitian street children and restaveks
Haitian Street Children (Schwarz 2013)

 

Many of these causes are interlinked: for example, conflict causes homelessness and poverty. Furthermore, they are not the only injustices that can lead to child or other forms of slavery. Still they paint a clear picture: slavery is not just an injustice, it is caused by injustice.  

 

References:

Adesina, O.S. 2014, ‘Modern day slavery: poverty and child trafficking in Nigeria’, African Identities, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 165-179.

Androff, D.K. 2011, ‘The problem of contemporary slavery: An international human rights challenge for social work’, International Social Work, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 209-222.

Berger Cardoso, J. & Fong, R. 2010, ‘Child human trafficking victims: Challenges for the child welfare system’, Child Welfare and the Challenge of the New Americas, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 311-316.

Cattaneo, C. & Obertová, Z. 2018, ‘Child trafficking and the European migration crisis: The role of forensic practitioners’, Forensic Science International, vol. 282, pp. 46-59.

Child Soldiers International (CSI) 2018, ‘Who are child soldiers?’, Child Soldiers International, viewed 2 April 2018, <https://www.child-soldiers.org/who-are-child-soldiers>End Slavery Now (ESN) 2018, ‘Child Labour’, End Slavery Now, viewed 2 April 2018, < www.endslaverynow.org/learn/slavery-today/child-labor >.

Schwarz, S. 2013, Haitian Street Children, image, The Guardian, viewed 2 April 2018, <https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2013/apr/03/faces-modern-day-slavery-in-pictures>.

United Nations (UN) 2017, The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017, United Nations, New York, pp. 1-59, < https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/files/report/2017/TheSustainableDevelopmentGoalsReport2017.pdf >.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 2017, ‘Street Children’, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, viewed 2 April 2018, < www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/fight-against-discrimination/education-of-children-in-need/street-children/>.

 

The Question of Animal Slavery

Elephants are intelligent like us. They use tools, have a high level of numerical cognition, and their herds are structured as typically matriarchal hierarchies (Irie & Hasegawa 2009). Chickens too are smart. They have what Johnson and Smith (2012) call functionally referential signals, their own symbolic language if you will. Much current research proves that rats feel empathy, pigs are optimistic, and self-awareness and morality are not limited to humanity alone (Bekoff & Pierce 2017). 

The link between animal rights issues and slavery is not new. The 1800s Abolition Movement compared the two, arguing that both animals and human slaves were held as property and exploited (Kim 2011). Note that the definition of a slave is this: a person over whom is exercised the right of human ownership (Slavery Convention 1926). Furthermore, human slaves were often associated with animals. Many deemed that African slaves, for example, were no better than “dumb beasts” (Kim 2011, p. 314) to justify their enslavement.

So, would it not hold that actual ‘dumb beasts’ can be enslaved too?

It is almost ironic, then, that arguments against animal slavery’s existence often claim animals are merely ‘dumb beasts’ – they lack either the intelligence, self-awareness or desire for liberty needed to be classified as slaves (Cochrane 2009). This reflects a common binary that assumes humans are intelligent, while every other animal is not (Kim 2011). This is a flawed argument as my introduction proves. Indeed, these beliefs arguably demonstrate speciesism: prejudice against and the exploitation of non-human animals for human interests (Dhont, Hodson & Leite 2016).

If the only factor that might prevent an elephant in the logging industry from being a slave is the question of intelligence, then the fact that elephants are intelligent would make it a slave.

ELIE-LOGGING
Logging Elephant (Wright 2015)

Perhaps the definition of the international Slavery Convention is limited in restricting the status of slaves to humans alone.

Interestingly, the U.S. Constitution’s 13th Amendment prohibits slavery without specifying humans explicitly (PETA 2011). The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) used this fact in 2011 to take SeaWorld in America to court over their enslavement of captive orcas they had kept in small tanks and forced to perform (PETA 2011). The article is here.

You might read this story and agree with PETA. Alternatively, you might disagree – everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Yet, if you read such stories and think ‘prisoner’, think ‘slave’, and then ignore it – that is perhaps an injustice worse than slavery itself. To deliberately blind yourself to an injustice you know exists…

And perhaps this is the crux of the question: not whether animals are enslaved, but whether we simply look the other way while they are. Why we look the other way. Racism is rightly protested in our world, but speciesism? The former injustice is undoubtedly linked to slavery (Armengol 2017), but the latter? If animals are dumb beasts, they cannot be slaves. Yet, elephants are intelligent like us.

 

References:

Armengol, J.M. 2017, ‘Slavery in black and white: The racialisation of (male) slavery in Frederick Douglass’s narrative and/vs. Toni Morrison’s A Mercy’, Postcolonial studies, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 479-493.

Bekoff, M. & Pierce, J. 2017, ‘Chapter 2: Can Science Save Animals?’, The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age, Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts.

Cochrane, A. 2009, ‘Do animals have an interest in liberty?’, Political Studies, vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 660-679.

Dhont, K., Hodson, G. & Leite, A.C. 2016, ‘Common Ideological Roots of Speciesism and Generalized Ethnic Prejudice: The Social Dominance Human-Animal Relations Model (SD-HARM)’, European Journal of Personality, vol. 30, no. 6, pp. 507-522.

Irie, N. & Hasegawa, T. 2009, ‘Elephant psychology: What we know and what we would like to know’, Japanese Psychological Research, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 177-181.

Kim, C.J. 2011, ‘Moral Extensionism or Racist Exploitation? The Use of Holocaust and Slavery Analogies in the Animal Liberation Movement’, New Political Science, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 311-333.

Johnson, J. & Smith, C.L. 2012, ‘The Chicken Challenge: What Contemporary Studies of Fowl Mean for Science and Ethics’, Between the Species: An Electronic Journal for the Study of Philosophy & Animals, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 75-102.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) 2011, ‘PETA sues SeaWorld for Violating Orcas’ Constitutional Rights’, PETA, viewed 27 March 2018, < https://www.peta.org/blog/peta-sues-seaworld-violating-orcas-constitutional-rights/>.

Slavery Convention (adopted 26 September 1926, entered into force 9 March 1927) 60 UNTC 254.

Wright, R. 2015, Logging Elephant, image, A Beating Heartviewed 28 March 2018, <www.abeatingheart.ca/tragedy-elephant-slavery/>.

The Universality of Slavery

Much links humanity together. For one, we are all part of the same species, Homo sapiens. We all breathe air. We were all born and will all die. Slavery too links us. Though it is certainly not an inevitable condition of life, it undoubtedly touches us all.

According to Oxford Dictionaries (2018, para. 1), a slave is “a person who is the legal properly of another and is forced to obey them.” A more formal definition is provided in Article 1 of the 1929 international Slavery Convention:

“Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of human ownership are exercised.”

It is likely that most peoples, though not all, have been victims of this injustice at some point in history right up until this very second. Nor is slavery exclusively human – some argue that animals have been enslaved too. One example is the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) 2015 video, Animal Captivity is Slavery below:

Even ignoring this debate, the fact is that every continent on Earth, bar Antarctica, has seen some form of human slavery. There were the Roman slaves in Europe. Mui tsai (slave girls) were still prominent in 1920s Hong Kong, Asia (White 2014). Australia convicted thirteen people of human trafficking between 2004 and 2011 (Larsen & Renshaw 2012, p. 1). Between the late 18th and mid-19th Centuries northwest Africa enslaved several hundred Americans and many more Europeans (Sears 2012a). In South America the Aztecs had slaves, and the African-American slave trade in North America is well-known. The Walk Free Foundation (WFF) (2018a) developed a map showing the current percentage of slaves in every world region, the most being in the Asia-Pacific area. For those interested, the map is here.

Another way that slavery links us is that anyone can be a victim. Yes, many instances of slavery have targeted specific races or groups of people. Arguably the most well-known is the African slave trade which became heavily racialised, especially in America as J. M. Armengol (2017) notes. Horrific though this experience was, however, it is important to remember not all slaves were coloured and not all slavers were white. Furthermore, slavers can, have and do indiscriminately target victims, like the North African corsairs who sailed the Mediterranean and Atlantic during the Barbary slave trade (Sears 2012b).

All genders and ages can find themselves enslaved too. Though female slaves are the most numerous today (ILO & WFF 2017), men are also victims. Children and adults alike suffer. In 2016, for example, 6.766 million males and 9.209 females – 2.980 children – were subjected to forced labour (ILO & WFF 2017, p. 18).

Even those of us who are not victims are linked through our discussions about slavery and our, often unknowing, participation in the slave trade.  For example, contact may come through consuming slave labour produced goods somewhere along a business’ supply chain (WFF 2018b). And so slavery touches, and concerns, us all.

 

References:

Armengol, J.M. 2017, ‘Slavery in black and white: The racialisation of (male) slavery in Frederick Douglass’s narrative and/vs. Toni Morrison’s A Mercy’, Postcolonial studies, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 479-493.

International Labour Organization & Walk Free Foundation (ILO & WFF) 2017, Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage, International Labour Office, Geneva, pp. 1-65.

Larsen, J.J. & Renshaw, L. 2012, ‘People trafficking in Australia’, Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, no. 441, p. 1-6.

Oxford University Press 2018, ‘Slave’, Oxford Dictionaries, viewed 17 March 2018, < https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/slave>.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) 2015, ‘Animal Captivity is Slavery’, YouTube, viewed 18 March 2018, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PZBV8O5pfI>.

Sears, C.E. 2012a, ‘Introduction’, American slaves and African masters: Algiers and the Western Sahara, 1776-1820, Palgrave Macmillian, New York, pp. 1-6.

Sears, C.E. 2012b, ‘Chapter 1: “The World Is Full of Vicissitudes”’, American slaves and African masters: Algiers and the Western Sahara, 1776-1820, Palgrave Macmillian, New York, pp. 7-23.

Slavery Convention (adopted 26 September 1926, entered into force 9 March 1927) 60 UNTC 254.

Walk Free Foundation (WFF) 2018b, ‘How are you connected?’, Walk Free Foundation, viewed 18 March 2018, <https://www.walkfreefoundation.org/understand/&gt;.

Walk Free Foundation (WFF) 2018a, ‘Where is modern slavery?’, Walk Free Foundation, viewed 17 March 2018, <https://www.walkfreefoundation.org/understand/&gt;.

White, C. 2014, ‘“To Rescue the Wretched Ones”: Saving Chinese Slave Girls in Republican Xiamen’, Twentieth-Century China, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 44-68.

 

 

 

 

Introducing Things

Slavery is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it is very old. The Ancient Egyptians had slaves. The Romans had slaves. The Vikings had slaves. The Aztecs had a very interesting system of slavery that arguably treated slaves more justly than most other societies (I will explore this in a later post). To make, perhaps, a more controversial statement, animals also have a long history of being enslaved by humans. So slavery is old. It is also still very much present. 

40.3 million people are estimated to be victims of slavery today (ILO & WFF 2017, p. 9).

According to the International Labour Organization and the Walk Free Foundation (2017, p. 4), in 2016 for every 1,000 people 5.4 became victims of slavery. There are an estimated 40.3 million human slaves in existence today (ILO & WFF 2017, p. 9). To illustrate how big this statistic is, consider this: 40.3 million is almost double the entire population of Australia in the 2017 census – a respectable 24,598,900 people (ABS 2017). There are far more slaves in the world than people in my home country. With that mind-blowing fact-

Hi. This is just a brief post about what this blog will be about, which is probably very obvious now, but in case it’s not I will say it once more: slavery. My writing about this topic will be broad. Aside from the treatment of slaves by Aztecs, posts will range from the plight of slaves, to how slavery is discussed, to the long-term consequences of slavery. I also want to debate a few more controversial related topics too. The overarching focus, of course, is that slavery is a social injustice. 

I guess I should probably introduce myself so that you have some idea who this random person is typing random words probably halfway across the world on a pretty significant issue. To start, my name is Lauren. As stated before, I am an Australian. My interest in slavery is a bit more complicated to explain. Simply put, it gnaws at my bones that it still exists in such a huge way. Going into more detail, I am extremely passionate about fairness and justice, and want to explore how and why slavery still continues as it does in such a prominent form. If I can raise awareness in doing so, that is an added bonus. 

References:

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, ‘Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2017’, cat. 3101.0, viewed 16 March 2018, <www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3101.0>. 

International Labour Organization & Walk Free Foundation (ILO & WFF) 2017, Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage, International Labour Office, Geneva, pp. 1-65.