A series of Tweets this week gave some examples of human trafficking that falls below the radar of those who use trafficking as an arguments to abolish sex work. I recently read a shocking story about human trafficking. Several dozen Poles had been promised summer jobs harvesting tomatoes in Southern Italy but on arrival their new employers herded them into a compound surrounded by barbed wire which they were not allowed to leave. They worked in the hot sun for twelve to fourteen hours a day and were subjected to beatings and other punishments for slacking. Eventually the Italian police arrived to free them.
There are many aspects to the story of human trafficking and slavery. Sadly the fate of these Poles was ignored by most of the world. Trafficking usually is unless it happens to involve trafficking into sex work. This is not acceptable. But let us just imagine what a campaign against trafficking into agricultural work might look like, if it was based on the same assumptions as the campaign against sex work. Here goes…………
I wish to talk about a new campaign called Turn off the Flashing Red Light, a campaign against the international tomato industry which, as we have seen, is blighted by trafficking and links to the mafia.
It is called Turn off the Flashing Red Light because, ever since a Brooklyn pizzeria used a flashing red tomato to advertise its wares in 1955, the flashing red light has been the symbol of the tomato trade, an evil business that enslaves millions and has proven links to organised crime. It proposes to end demand for tomatoes by criminalising the purchases of tomatoes while offering alternative lifestyle choices, such as selling courgettes, to those trapped in this evil trade, one defended by the powerful lobby of the multinational tomato industry.
Tomatoes are, according to their research, sold on the street, sold in undercover markets, and, at the top end of the market in innocent looking places, many of which are called Waitrose. Most tomato sellers begin their activity in their early teens and are kept in the trade by brutal men, sometimes women, known colloquially as ‘shopkeepers’. The buyers of their wares, generally unfeeling and uncaring of the misery on which their gastronomic pleasure depends, are known colloquially as ‘shoppers’ in most of the English speaking world. These are usually seedy unwashed individuals probably suffering genetic abnormalities caused by excessive tomato consumption.
The key research in this field has been carried out by Dr. Melinda Farfetched a veteran Bay Area anti-tomato activist. She comments ‘my research shows that 97% of all women selling tomatoes first did so before their 12th birthday having been forced by shopkeepers to drink litres of brain addling Del Monte tomato juice as part of the enslavement process. The profits to be made from tomatoes are mind boggling. As far as I am concerned the idea that Pizza Margherita cannot be made without tomatoes is a typical lie made up by the tomato lobby. You might think I am making all this up and I am. But so what? I’m much cleverer than you so I can.’
I talked to the campaign’s most vocal advocate in the UK, veteran journalist Juliet Bundle. She commented ‘in London there are literally millions of women trapped in the tomato trade. The lies of the pro-tomato lobby sicken me. You can go on Twitter and see so called tomato rights activist telling us how much they enjoy their work. One of the most prominent is a tomato seller who calls herself Jemima Puddleduck and tweets abuse round the clock. I am convinced that she is actually now a man, having suffered the genetic effects of long term tomato consumption. And if you think I’m making all this up just remember: I am important, very important. So important that the Guardian pays me lots of money to write ill-informed drivel. When did they last commission you, you cock loving loser?’
It is in Ireland that the campaign is closest to success, thanks to the tireless efforts of Ruethetomato. A bill is now before the Dail which will allow for:
The jailing of tomato purchasers, the ‘shoppers’
The eviction of all tomato sellers from their homes so that RuetheTomato can rescue them with bowls of cabbage soup
The napalm bombing of tomato plantations in County Offaly by the Garda Siochana
A spokeswoman for RuetheTomato said, in between decades of the Rosary,
‘Everything bad in Ireland is the fault of the Brits. Tomatoes are not native to our shores but introduced by the British invader. We believe, like de Valera, that the only food fit for the Irish people is potatoes and cabbage. It was potatoes and cabbage that nourished the girls rescued from the grip of the tomato industry in days gone by, as they saved their immortal souls by working in our laundries. We say Turn off the Flashing Red Light. Get the tomato out of Ireland.’
End demand? Criminalise the purchase of tomatoes? Is this the way ahead? What do you think?