Posted: Wed, December 19, 2012 | By: Hank Pellissier
Cashews are delicious. They’re my favorite nut, and possibly yours. Plus they’re exceptionally healthy. My intention was to gobble several hundred handfuls of the kidney-shaped delicacies at Christmas parties, but I just learned that many cashews… are tainted… with suffering…
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that cashews from Vietnam are often delivered to our salivating lips via the abuse of 300,000+ drug addicts indentured for 2-5 year stints in 123 “rehab centers” that are, in actually, forced labor camps.
In a report titled “The Rehab Archipelago”, HRW reported that Vietnamese druggies are given “labor therapy” that entails husking and skinning cashews 6-10 hours a day, six days a week. Quotas are enforced, requiring each person to process about 4,800 cashews.
Cashew resin is caustic, burning the skin on their faces and hands, with the dust ravaging their respiratory systems and blinding their eyes. Gloves and masks are often available, or only obtained via a rental fee.
Additionally, the drug addicts are whipped, kicked, shocked with electric batons, beaten with truncheons, confined in isolation and starved.
Vietnam’s addicts - generally heroin junkies - aren’t “cured” by this nefarious treatment. Relapse rates are “officially between 70%-80%, but most regard 95% as being closer to the real situation,” reports the World Health Organization. The recognized treatment of methadone is not prescribed in Vietnam, and the therapeutic benefits of the program are regarded as “zero.”
Many of the “drug addicts” are sentenced to work based on a single urine test, or they’re picked on o “street sweeps.”
A non-profit called CAMSA - Coalition to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery in Asia - is asking consumers to boycott Vietnamese cashews until international delegations have inspected and approved all the centers and prisons.
Another non-profit, Fairfood International, is demanding that US snack companies reveal the source of their cashews. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream is also insisting that Vietnam address these labor and human rights concerns.
Are cashews big business in Vietnam? HUGE! In 2011, Vietnam ranked first in the world in cashew exporting, second in processing and third in productivity. The USA is the world’s largest purchaser of Vietnam’s cashews, buying over $1.4 billion of the nuts last year.
Oddly enough, they’re not even a “nut” nor are they native to the region. Cashews are the seed of a fruit tree that originated in Brazil. Portuguese sailors carried them to the colonies of Mozambique and Goa (India) in the 16th century; by the 19th century they were world-wide.
Cashews are deliriously healthy. Rich in iron, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, antioxidants, and protein, they’re regarded as a cancer preventative that’s also good for your hair, skin, bones and nerves, plus they’re high in “good fat” and fiber.
But… can I eat them without guilt? Without contributing to maltreatment of unfortunates?
Yes, just buy them elsewhere. I recommend Nigeria, or Peru.