The Human Meat Market

By Rangon Islam

Ever since the colonization of America, there has been a growing criminal meat market. Human trafficking is one of the most common and largest international crimes that involve various types of abuse and force against humans by transferring people of any age and gender for the purpose of exploitation or commercial gain. The Department of Homeland Security describes human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery, and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose.” Human trafficking can happen in mostly every continent but it occurs more in Third World countries than more developed countries because people in poverty are more vulnerable to become puppets to perpetrator. Exploitation can come in different forms in the world of trafficking; it can range from sex trafficking to forced labor to even organ harvesting. Based on the human trafficking trends from 2007 to 2012, Polaris Project reveals that the “three most common forms of sex trafficking reported to the hotline involved pimp-controlled prostitution, commercial-front brothels, and escort services.” Almost half a percent of these are identified around the world. How can this chain of inhumane actions be stopped or at least alleviated? The United States has some laws to enforce laws against human trafficking, but are they really working? Even though human trafficking is not something we would encounter on a daily basis, it should still be an important issue because our human rights are violated and victims are being treated in such a brutal way, even children who don’t even deserve to experience such a dark side of this world.

Human trafficking is an economic business. It makes “an estimated #32 billion dollars annually." All this money goes to the traffickers who use people to do their dirty work and sell the victims whenever they feel like it. Traffickers use their victims as cheap labor to gain larger profits—either sexually or in business involved in agriculture, clothing, food, etc. Since organs are medically scarce, some traffickers also take their victims’ organs and sell them for a cheap and profitable price without any consent from the victim. These situations often happen in countries that are less developed and have weak institutions, where the people are vulnerable and in need of things to keep them alive.  

Human trafficking victims are people of any gender, age, race, and religion. Half of the detected victims are women, eighteen percent are men, twelve percent are boys, and twenty-one percent are girls.  Of the one-third victims that are children, sixty-two percent were found in Africa and the Middle East, thirty-six percent in South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific, thirty-one percent in the Americas, and eighteen percent in Europe and Central Asia. Most of these victims were found in underdeveloped countries because the victims are more vulnerable. The most vulnerable victims are the homeless and runaway, because they do not have a shelter to protect themselves, and immigrants, because they do not know about all the resources available to them and they do not know the language, which make them all easy to trick. “Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year” and “the average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-year-old.” “The Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, published by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in November 2014, found victims from 152 nationalities in 124 countries” and these aren’t even one percent of the total victims out in the world.

Fox News publishes a couple of human trafficking articles, but one of the most shocking ones by far is Annie Lobert’s article about a sex trafficking survivor, who describes the Super Bowl as the “just another weekend for the hundreds of thousands of sex-trafficking victims in the United States.” The victim is exposed and tortured by dozens of men all day during the Super Bowl weekend and all the money is taken away from her pimp when she goes back. Not only that, but she has to go through more beatings from her pimp. She described how she had lost her identity—literally and figuratively. The pimp created a fake ID to hide her identity and after being completely controlled by her pimp, she lost control over herself, because if she did anything to harm the pimp, she will be threatened or the pimp will threaten her by saying that her family or loved ones will be killed if she even tried to escape. This article was published to raise awareness of the situation and to state that “[if] there had been more people of action, if there were more resources available, [the victim would] like to think that [he/she] would have been rescued out of trafficking much earlier.” Spreading the information and gaining more support saves lives because when more people are helping, the more quickly we can find the traffickers.

Human trafficking has concealed so well into our society that we do not even notice it happening right in front of us or that we are using the products created under a human trafficking environment. Sarah Maslin Nir exposes the story behind nail salons in New York City in a New York Times article, “The Price of Nice Nails.”(9) These manicurists take on 10 to 12 hour shifts to try and earn enough to make a living. However, Jing Ren, a new immigrant ready to take on a manicurist job in a Long Island mall, has $100 in her pocket to pay the salon owner. Why was a new employee paying her boss on the first day of work? She said it was the cost of being an employee of the salon. The boss did not even pay her until three months later when he decided that she was skillful enough. All he paid her was $30 a day, not even minimum wage. This is one case in more than 150 other nail salon cases where the employees were paid below minimum wage to none at all for long hours. Many of these salon works are immigrants who are not able to speak the English language properly enough and some even believe that this is the proper way to start making a living. Sometimes these employees are even punished for labor and violating the salon’s rules, verbally and, in rare cases, physically. They are unaware of how unfairly they are treated and that there are better opportunities out there. Illegal immigrants have limited job options and risk being deported if they leave the salon but anything would be better than being a victim of human trafficking and stripping off their natural rights. At the same time, some of these people can be illegal immigrants so they are most vulnerable to be stuck in these types of situations because they can only take on limited opportunities. Some owners may say they are helping these new immigrants get a job as an excuse that they are doing a good deed. With more stores than Starbucks, New York City’s nail salons are common immigrant-run businesses in a major city that exploits their worker for commercial gain, fitting right into the definition of labor trafficking. 

To raise awareness of the effects of human trafficking on people, some survivors took up the courage to explain the horrors of this inhumane crime. The Polaris Project provides a blog of stories from human trafficking survivors. Most of them had something in common: It was about the survivor whose life was flipped around when they were tricked with false promises. Innocent people are kidnapped and forced into prostitution or forced labor. They all wish to escape but the security around these businesses is high and sometimes the traffickers even threaten or punish the victims for trying to escape. Even when the traffickers are caught, the survivors are not all cured. Many went through starvation and harsh physical abuse that could include broken bones, burns, and other permanent injuries. Victims of sex trafficking can even carry sexually transmitted diseases, along with the side effects of illegal abortions or miscarriage they were forced to have. Most victims also suffer from psychological effects like an eating disorder, depression, self-hatred, shame, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Even though the justice was enforced for these survivors, they are still left with memories and scar that will forever remind them of the crime they were part of.  

We listen to the news to catch up on events that is happening around us. Human trafficking news has the same purpose; even though human trafficking is not something an individual would encounter on a daily basis, one should be aware of their surroundings and the signs of human trafficking to prevent it. We are all potential victims, theoretically, and since this is a violation of our human rights, we should stand up against it. Also, it would be worth it to recognize at least the signs of human trafficking so you are more aware of what kind of surrounding you could be in. The Polaris Project created a list of common signs to human trafficking situations such as an individual with “poor mental health or abnormal behavior,” “avoid[s] eye contact,” “is not in control of his/her own identification documents,” “lack of control,” or “is under eighteen and is providing commercial sex acts.” It will take time and taking helping even a little is better than ignoring the problem altogether. Many people have proposed ideas to help stop human trafficking, but it will not be of use unless we take action.

The Orange Movement, a human trafficking awareness organization, provides the basic steps on how to start fighting against human trafficking: “Share, Serve, [and] Support.” Before taking action, you need to know what you are fighting for. Learn about human trafficking through books and documentaries such as Emily Goodwin’s Stay, which allows you to travel through the eyes of a human trafficking victim whose life change in an instant when she was kidnapped, and The Candy Shop: A Fairytale About Sexual Exploitation of Children, which takes a dark and innocent path to provide awareness of the reality of child trafficking. In addition, listening or reading the news is a great way to keep up with the current events about human trafficking. After educating yourself, share your information with others in social media sites to spread the truth and get more people to join along in the movement. Then it is time to take action! Volunteer in human trafficking movements, such as the Orange Movement, with fundraising or awareness events. If you are so passionate, you can even go make a career for yourself, dedicating you soul to stop this international crime.

Human trafficking is one the world's most common crime. It is seen as modern-day slavery where the natural human rights are violated. The United States are one of the global players in the human trafficking game. Events, such as the Super Bowl, are businesses for people who commit this crime. The perpetrators take advantage of vulnerable people or use force to kidnap individuals for sex exploitation, forced labor, and illegal organ donations. The use of people for personal use and deriving them from their natural rights is a crime. The crime violates the US Constitution and 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. No human being should be chained by their own kind. It is not right and should be stopped!