The government is allowing slavery to flourish in the UK

Support us and go ad-free

You may be surprised to learn that the UK has a slavery problem. But it’s true. Vietnamese teenagers are being trafficked and then enslaved on cannabis farms.

Independent anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland criticised police forces for failing to deal with the situation in an urgent and committed manner. Hyland “want[s] to see more people pursued and prosecuted”. There has never been a successful prosecution of a human trafficker from Vietnam.

Trafficking people into slavery should be a high priority concern for the police. But this problem is a symptom. The more fundamental issue is the unregulated black market, which allows slavery to flourish in the first place. In a regulated market, these inhumane practices would disappear.

Shocking working conditions

Teenagers working on these farms spoke to The Guardian. 15-year-old Tung was locked alone in a flat for two months. He developed an allergic reaction to the strong chemicals that were used in the cultivation. But he still had to carry on working. He said it was hard to breathe and sleep. And it damaged his lungs. When the flat was raided, Tung was sent to prison for 12 months.

During a raid on a house in Plymouth, police found a 13-year-old boy with injuries to his face. And in another case, a Vietnamese man and woman in charge of a cannabis farm told 15-year-old Bao (not his real name):

If you don’t do the watering properly, we will stop bringing you food and you will starve.

Bao spent five months in more or less complete isolation. Occasionally two men would visit him to check he was doing a good job. Bao says they threatened to beat him up if he got anything wrong.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Police also found three teenage boys in a former nuclear bunker in Wiltshire. They had no access to daylight or fresh air. With no working toilet, they had to urinate into bottles. And the dodgy electricity set-up meant that a fire could have happened at any time.

Most of these teenage boys owe money to traffickers, so when they are arrested and released, they sometimes go missing. They know their families will be at risk if they don’t comply with the traffickers. So they end up being put to work again.

Ethical consumerism

Ethicist David Schwartz says that “As a consumer, you’re part of the chain”. He believes that consumers who buy cocaine “share in the moral culpability” for the unethical practices involved in its production.

You would be hard-pressed to find ‘ethical cocaine’. But what about cannabis grown in the UK? According to a report [pdf] published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, a significant proportion of cannabis cultivated in the UK involves modern slavery. Unless you know who grows the cannabis you buy, it’s hard to know whether human abuse was part of its production or not.

Journalist Jay Rayner wrote that it’s hypocritical for middle-class people to argue for ethically sourced food and clothing, whilst buying cannabis and cocaine.

But as mentioned earlier, if the production of cannabis was licensed, regulated and controlled, this would put a stop to the crime. Even the police force recognises the merits of this argument. Detective inspector Paul Franklin said:

Perhaps there’s an argument that if it were legalised, you could do it [grow it] upfront and you wouldn’t all need this. But that’s for the government to decide.

It is for the government to decide. But it has so far decided to push drugs underground into the hands of criminal networks. Modern slavery is just another example of the harm caused by the UK’s prohibitive drug laws.

Get Involved!

– Check out more articles from The Canary on drug policy.

Featured image via Flickr

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed