Slavery in England. Illegal since 1833. Not Abolished in 2016?
A shocking case of Modern Day Slavery has reached a Court decision published this month.
The case is of several Lithuanian men who were effectively enslaved working for DJ Houghton Catching Services Limited and its Officers Darrel Houghton and Jacqueline Judge between 2008 and 2012.
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority stated that the men were treated as slaves, and described DJ Houghton as “the worst UK Gangmaster ever.”
[Whatever that means, in the absence of others, cited as “less worst Gangmasters”, by comparison. Presumably, it is a soundbite for the papers but it’s not a contest and it means evil].
The work, which involved unpaid travel “bussing” around farm after farm, was to catch chickens in the dark [seems they are a bit less scratchy and difficult in the dark] for extremely low pay from which, even so, random “punishment” deductions were taken.
Catching 6000 birds an hour, covered in chicken droppings, mud, feathers, being attacked by frightened chickens flying at them in the dark. They worked 120 hours a week, no contracts, no training and even no protective clothing and their intermediary – the agent of the Company, was a big man with a Rottweiler dog.
All of the men suffered accidents with no compensation or payment for necessary time off work.
Ironic that some of the eggs collected are marketed as “Happy Eggs”. Maybe that’s the brand you buy, they are probably “organic”. Yum.
The result of the case is apparently the first time that a British Company has been found liable to compensate victims of people-trafficking – Slavery.
The link to the case report is here
The words of the National Union of Farmers Chief Horticulture Adviser, Ms Hayley Campbell-Gibbons may be worth pondering. She remarks that these farming cases can now be dealt because of the regulations and the regulators created after the disaster of the drownings of the Chinese Cockle-picker slaves in Morecambe in 2004 – the Gangmasters [Licensing] Act 2004. This Act regulates the supply of workers to agriculture, horticulture and shellfishing.
She says that the new regulations are enabling cases like this one to be heard and making it harder for criminals to work in these industries. Accordingly, the consequence is that criminals “will move into unregulated sectors, such as construction, catering or care homes”.
Care homes? Unregulated? I wonder what the Care Quality Commission thinks about that.
So in order to supply organic free-range eggs from happy hens to people who don’t like their breakfast egg to come from chickens living in slavery, these men lived like battery chickens. Life can be complicated.
The message apart from the fact that all of us need to think about what we buy, and where it comes from, must be that slavery is real and it is happening today in Britain.
It needs to be stopped, the Courts will stop it and punish it when they can. We should all keep our eyes open.
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