How We Avoid Feeling Guilty for Slave-Made Goods

Child SlaveryForced LaborSlavery-Free GoodsSupply Chain

We consume or use products that are likely tainted by modern slavery every day. From gadgets to clothing, fish, cocoa, and cane sugar, it is almost impossible to avoid.

So why have we, as consumers, largely ignored or avoided feeling guilty for this?

That is the subject of new research from Michal Carrington from University of Melbourne, Andreas Chatzidakis of Royal Holloway, and Deidre Shaw at University of Glasgow.

They ask: “What of the responsibility of consumers to care about how a product was made, rather than choosing the cheapest product, no questions asked?”

Writing in The Conversation, they point to coping strategies used by consumers::

  1. Age Restrictions: One of our interviewees explained how she empathised with children who were exploited, but not necessarily adults. A “grown man”, she told us, had “other options”. Even if an adult was working for less than the minimum wage, she said, “they are earning a bit of money, they’re happy with that […] so I don’t classify it as modern slavery”.

  2. Blame their culture: One participant expressed it like this: “if a sweatshop factory is working within the rules and regulations of its host country,” he said, “then by virtue of the ethics of that country it is not morally wrong.”

  3. Somehow they deserve it: One interviewee blamed modern slaves for not working hard enough to avoid being exploited. “They have the opportunity to go to school and to get a proper job,” she said. “If they don’t take it, it’s their choice.

  4. We’re all slaves, really: We can also trivialise the experience of slavery by suggesting, for example, that we ourselves are “enslaved” (for example to our job, or to technology), or that the working conditions of some slaves aren’t that bad.

So what can we do about this? How do we stop shrugging off the guilt to the point that “where we can no longer take a deny-all-knowledge approach?”

For the team of researchers, that answer is to be determined, but the first step is to admit and expose justifications in our heads — the “neutralisations to shut down moral feeling.”

Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.

Leave a Reply

14 Comment threads
6 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
17 Comment authors
Debbie VatahaJacqueline EhningerKristaJim DisbrowFreedom United Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Debbie Vataha
Debbie Vataha

All of the above comments are proof that we are uneducated and I believe we if knew that we were buying products made with slave labor,
we would not buy that item.

Jacqueline Ehninger
Jacqueline Ehninger

We should encourage companies to become “Fair Labour” certified. Similar to something like “GMO-free” produce or “Fair trade” coffee etc. Freedom United should work with other likeminded organizations to set up a body that oversees certification and checks companies’ supply chains. If I saw a “Fair Labour” label on something, I’d be willing to pay more to avoid slavery. But without some sort of certification, paying more is no guarantee for anything at all and we may as well keep buying cheap.


If I know about a company using forced labor, I won’t purchase from that company. I’d like to see info on companies “in our face” so that more people would be aware and shop accordingly.

Betty C Dudney

Even now 0.1of 1% have control of up to 90% of the World’s economy for billions of people!

50% of all people make less than $2-3/day. 1/3, mostly children are on starvation diets. While CEO’s are paid millions/day to squeeze out more profits and to increase productivity.

Seek instead The God Within, as well as without, to help find best ways to help end negative inequality of all kinds!


The comments read just show how totally ignorant people are! You can fix broken , you can fix sick most of the time, but you can’t fix STUPID!