Blood, Sweat & Takeaways


Year: 2009

Type: TV documentary series (BBC3, four one-hour episodes on Tuna, Prawns, Rice and Chicken)

Director and Producer: James Christie-Miller

Production Company: Ricochet 

Availability: via BBC iPlayer (series page, limited availability), plus free online, in part, including trailer (here), episodes (3. Rice & 4. Chicken) & clips (from 1. Tuna)

Page reference: Clarke, H., Thomson, B., Bartley, V., Ibbetson-Price, K., Christie-Miller, E. & Schofield, H. (2013) Blood, sweat & takeaways. ( last accessed <insert date here>)

Lego re-creation

Blood, sweat & takeaways

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When it comes to food, we are spoilt for choice. From top class restaurants to low cost supermarkets, we take it for granted that we can buy whatever food we want, whenever we want it. But would we feel the same if we knew the human cost of food production? (Source: Anon 2009a np link).

Like its predecessor Blood, Sweat and T-shirts, the programme aims to lift the veil on the voiceless workers normally obscured from our view by the complex supply chains of the global economy - this time focusing on those who pick, process and package the food we eat (Source: Rees 2009 np link).

Takeaways is [a] … walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes outing … putting six typical young British food consumers - that is, people who stuff their faces with takeaway - to work among some of the impoverished millions involved in food production in Southeast Asia (Source: Cuthbertson 2009 p.46).

Six spoilt and ignorant young twits go off to experience at first hand how the food they eat in Britain is grown, caught and processed abroad (Source: Chater 2009 p.18).

During this immersive shock therapy, they'll have to work at every stage of the production process. Only by growing, rearing, harvesting, processing, preparing and cooking the foods will they truly discover what goes into getting it onto their plate and into their gob (Source: Team Planet Green 2009 np link).

... the big question is whether their unsavoury experiences will make them - and the programme's viewers - think twice about eating such cheap imported foods (Source: Devine 2009 p.15)

In Britain today, we eat more fast food than ever - from takeaways to supermarket meals. But what is the human cost of producing cheap nosh for our convenience? In this four-part series, six intrepid Brits - luxury-food lover Lauren, 21, fussy eater Jess, 19, fastfood fan Manos, 20, fitness fanatic Olu, 25, keen cook Josh, 20, and 20- year-old ethical shopper Stacey - taste life in the rice, tuna, prawn and chicken industries as they work for a month in South-East Asia (Source: Maloney 2009 p.22).

Across four episodes, the British youths labor alongside locals in the difficult work of producing rice, prawns, tuna, and chicken, while living on the same paltry wages and in the same cramped huts. The Westerners retch, cry, and faint when confronted with the daily realities of backyard pit toilets and repulsive sh*t rivers that crisscross the slums; relentless assembly lines and filthy farm drudgery; and sex-worker mothers and sweatshop children (Source: Gupta and Fawcett 2010 np link).

The Brits have very different takes on food - one's a fitness freak, one's a junk-food junkie and a couple fancy themselves as gourmet cooks - but none of them have any real idea of where it comes from. The one who needs the most straightening out is [Manos], the son of a Bangladeshi immigrant, who skites about the fact that others work like slaves so he can have cheap chicken. 'If the importers and exporters are exploiting another person so that my price is cheap, so be it,' he smirks. Upon arriving in Indonesia, they are shown around the cramped homes of tuna cannery workers, then put to work on the gutting and filleting lines … Once all the fainting and dry retching is done, the Brits can't decide what's worse - the revolting work in the sweltering factory or the pittance the factory workers take home. Later, two of the guys head out on a fishing trawler and find life at sea is even harder than working in the cannery (Source: Newsome 2009a p.40).

Manos, who lives on fried chicken and chips, is a Westernized 20-year-old political science student from London, much to the chagrin of his Bangladeshi father, who declares 'he has to change.' Manos 'doesn't care how cheap chicken is produced,' proclaiming, 'If one man is to live in luxury then the evil necessities of economic exploitation must occur.' Olu, a British bodybuilder of Nigerian descent, is of a similar mindset and his father hopes 'he will learn something deep that he will never learn in England.' While loading up his basket with meat products at his local supermarket, Olu tells the camera, 'I don't know how they produce it, where they produce it, I don't care, keep producing it. … I'm going to have as much as possible' (Source: Gupta and Fawcett 2010 np link).

First up is a trip to a tuna factory in Indonesia, where workers are paid a few pounds a week to gut, scale and loin the fish. It goes wrong pretty quickly: bodybuilder Olu puts cheeky Manos through a plate of glass on their first day of work, while fussy Jess responds to being demoted with the immortal line: 'I worked my arse off for those f*cking fish.' Lessons are learned about the exploitation of third-world workers, and the humanising of some fairly spoilt people is touching (Source: Hodgkinson 2009 p.77).

Later, there's a surprise with a new addition to the group. Following Olu's departure ... 22-year-old farmer James joins them for the next stage of their adventure, to the remote rice regions of Thailand (Source: KA 2009 np link).

Working in an Indonesian factory that supplies tuna to Tesco and M&S and living in its shadow in a shanty town, the sextet is predictably horrified at the job (relentless gutting, beheading and loining), the conditions (factory temperatures can reach 90 degrees) and pay (40p an hour). As well they might be (Source: McLean 2009 p.30 link).

In Indonesia, not only did they work in the tuna industry, but they were also employed on a prawn farm living in a shack in the jungle and working in waist-deep mud. Things weren't much better in Thailand, working in the chicken industry and in rice-growing communities, where they were up to their ankles in water in a paddy field and had just one banana and a slice of bread to eat a day (Source: Cavendish 2009 np link).

Their first stop is a tuna-processing plant in Bitung on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, where they are expected to gut, skin and fillet tuna on a factory line in stifling heat for eight hours a day at 40p an hour. Inevitably, they whinge and complain every inch of the way, behaving with breathtaking insensitivity towards their hosts, who welcome them into their basic communities. But the moment they stop obsessing about their own discomfort and begin to appreciate the reality of other people's lives, they stop behaving like ugly foreigners and show the best of themselves. The programme offers a crash course in basic humanity (Source: Chater 2009 p.18).

Jess Copper stands on the production line of a tuna factory in Indonesia. She is a pretty blonde with pale skin and dark eyes, although you'd never guess because she is wearing standard factory wear: white lab-style coat, hat and face mask. She is not allowed to talk in case her saliva infects the tuna fish in front of her. She cannot leave the production line unless she asks and has one break a day. She works an eight-hour shift, which earns her £2 a day after rent is deducted from her wages. Her job is to produce tuna loins by de-boning and de-skinning endless cooked tuna fish. She is not, it is fair to say, very good at this. She lags way behind, causing the entire production line to get into trouble. Told that she is to be moved from loining to beheading the fish, she looks as if she is about to cry (Source: Cavendish 2009 np link).

The young Brits sent to Asia to learn about the high price of cheap food got the message last episode, when they had to sweat it out in an Indonesian tuna-processing plant. The message gets drummed in further tonight, when they're put to work in Indonesia's menial and unrewarding prawn-farming business. After spending a couple of days waist-deep in mud repairing levees on a prawn farm, they go to work on a monotonous prawn-shelling line. They all feel humbled and guilty as they move into tiny, cramped houses with locals whose back-breaking labour earns them a pittance (Source: Newsome 2009b p.40).

In 40C heat, high humidity and up to their waists in muddy water, the gang of young British consumers toil in ruined Indonesian rainforest to sate western appetites. And all for £3 for a 12-hour shift (Source: McLean 2009 p.26).

As a nation, we're eating more prawns than ever before. We might think twice after seeing how they get to us in restaurants, shops and cafes. Hygiene, I should point out, is strictly enforced by the Indonesian producers, which means the prawns are fine and dandy. The five young workers are less happy with their living and working conditions. A shack in the jungle with no running water in temperatures of 40 degrees Centigrade and high humidity make for an uncomfortable life. You should see the look of alarm when they're shown the prawn ponds and learn that they can flood and let crocodiles in among the prawn harvesters. Their first task is to build mud walls to stop the prawns being washed away. There are 1,000 metres of mud wall that must be constantly rebuilt. After a few hours they've managed just a few metres. Thank goodness reinforcements arrive in the fit and eager form of farmer's son James. He doesn't mind getting his hands - and the rest of him - dirty squelching about in the mud. How unlike Josh who's snivelling about missing his family. The boss, alarmed at the slow progress, calls in Indonesian workers to complete the wall. Going indoors, in the factory where the prawns are peeled and packed for shipping to UK outlets among others, isn't much better. This is hard, boring work for which modern young people are ill equipped physically or mentally. Workers stand all day and are expected to peel over 1,000 prawns an hour - that's 8,000 a shift. All for 35p an hour, the basic living wage in Indonesia. Fast food junkie Manos is useless. He's slow and many of the prawns he manages to peel are broken and therefore below the quality required. The supervisor ties a yellow tape round his arm - a sign that he's a bad worker - and sends him to peel at a separate table, commenting about the failure of Manos to 'show the good spirit to learn'. At least Josh learns his lesson. 'It makes you appreciate what you've got, ' he says. But will it stop him eating prawn sandwiches, I wanted to ask (Source: Pratt 2009 p.19).

Thailand is the biggest exporter of rice to the west and practically all the jasmine rice we eat in the UK comes from there. But the group are surprised at the high price being paid by the rice-growing communities forced apart from their families because of our high demand for such a cheap staple food. The heavy workload catches up with Josh, who is sent to hospital with a serious infection picked up in the mud of the rice fields. Manos must come face-to-face with the killing of his favourite food, before the group follow the migrant workers from the open spaces of the countryside to the biggest slum in Thailand, to find alternative ways to earn a living (Source: Anon 2009b np link).

An increased awareness of fast-food provenance is the aim of this laudable and engaging series. Tonight's episode, the third of four following the young team on a Far East fact-finding mission, finds them grafting in rice fields and processing plants in Thailand. The work is hot and back-breaking and the salary is a pittance, which is not helpful when they have to pay rent and buy food solely from their personal yield. And if they think this is bad, next week's stint in a chicken-processing factory promises to make vegetarians of the lot of them (Source: James & Kinnes 2009 p.60-1).

As the youth reject local food and hospitality during the 'shock' phase, our distaste for them grows, heightening the drama, but at the expense of insulting their hosts. 'I understand our ways of life are different,' says Pan Jai in a Bangkok slum. 'I tried to help them. The way they reacted disappointed me.' In Indonesia, Manos vomits when taken to an outdoor latrine, which leads the homeowner to say she is offended. When tuna factory workers say they would be happy if their children were able to get similar jobs, Jess, ignoring the Indonesian workers beside her, exclaims to the other Westerners, 'I just think it's unreal how they think their job is a good job.' In the dramatic clashes that inevitably ensue, the youth crack under pressure, challenging managers, shunning work, blaming each other, and storming off. 'Manos still misses the point,' intones the narrator. 'Indonesians do hard work for low pay, with no attitude.' Such tantrums slow the incessant pace of production, jeopardizing the youths' pay and forcing the group into a suspenseful decision between rent or dinner. The Brits can always quit the game, however. Stacey bribes a worker with cosmetics to finish her garment quota, Jess flatly refuses to skin fish ... When times get really tough, the weary youth choose a four-star hotel, dinner at McDonald's, or first-class medical care in a hospital room that looks like a penthouse. After the visceral immersion, the test begins: can the contestants separate 12 pieces of chicken per minute, clean 1,000 prawns per hour, and build a mud dike by hand before sundown? The locals are once again dehumanized in the process: 'I'm a human being, not a robot. I can't do this,' says Manos. 'We're not Indonesian workers,' says an exasperated Jess. 'It's just not what we do.' But the game for the rich is at the expense of the poor. The Western youth get an education, but it's the locals who must work late to compensate. Ratmi, a line supervisor in the tuna factory, is yelled at after the Brits botch the day's output. She and the other supervisors are told not to blame the Westerners for the drop in production and are made to stay an extra four hours without pay to finish the work. When 'reality' settles in for the youth, the transformation begins. 'If I knew this is where my prawns come from, every prawn I'd eat I'd treasure so much,' says Josh. If Manos had known how his beloved fast-food chicken was processed he would have 'become vegan long ago.' … Seeing the face of the poor of the global production body makes all participants feel guilty and they begin to recognize the need for change. The dramatic arc builds, not to a resolution of social change, but to individual confessions. Manos and Josh are expelled from the tuna factory for sloppy work and sent to sea. One inky black night on a rickety fishing boat, after a round of song and apparent camaraderie with their Indonesian cohorts, Manos blurts out his confession: 'I have to apologize,' he begins hesitantly - not for their reality, but for his own ego. 'I need to change.' After a quick cut to a confused-looking fisherperson, another issues his blessing: 'Yes, this is good,' he says. Manos is redeemed. As Manos confesses, we cut back to the young women at the tuna factory as they receive their meager pay. They go home with chocolate and $1.60 for their host Ratmi. Stoic throughout the episode, Ratmi breaks down when given money, driving the women to embraces and a baptism of tears. 'If the poor are happy and grateful for so little, I can change my behavior too,' sobs Lauren. Stacey says, 'I've got so much and I do appreciate it. Seeing what people have here and how happy they still are, it brings it all home for you, you know?’ (Source: Gupta and Fawcett 2010 np link).

Josh has … learned a valuable lesson. 'I have seen how much effort these people put into producing the tuna, and how much it means to them in terms of their survival. Now I would pay more for my can of tuna at home if it meant the workers here were paid more.' Jess agrees. She gives the change from her wages to her female host worker. It comes to less than one pound, yet it enables the worker to make a rare visit to her children, who live with her mother-in-law as she cannot afford to buy a house, which is her ambition in life. 'Don't give up your dream,' Jess tells her. She then bursts in to tears as she sees the woman's children reunited with their mother. 'I admire you so much,' she says tearfully. 'We take everything for granted. The only option here is to work really hard and still be poor. I can't believe it' (Source: Cavendish 2009 np link).

Suddenly, towards the end of the week, they all undergo miraculous epiphanies: they go from Veruca Bloody Salts to Mother Flippin' Teresas. They realise that they're spoilt westerners, haven't been responsible about food, haven't even thought about it or where it comes from. From now on, it's going to be different, and they're going to pay double in Tesco for a can of tuna. More tears and hugs (Source: Wollaston 2009 p.27 link).

Inspiration / Technique / Process / Methodology

BBC3 has been taking a lot of hostile fire in recent weeks, almost universally identified as a better candidate for blood sacrifice [a target for BBC budget cuts] - should one be needed - than 6 Music or the Asian Network. But, in among the double bills of Snog, Marry, Avoid? and the reruns of Dr Who and Family Guy there have always been some interesting programmes on the channel. … Nobody has recently done better stuff on developing-world labour conditions than BBC3's Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts and Blood, Sweat and Takeaways series, which embedded British twentysomethings in overseas sweatshops to tickle up their (and our) social conscience (Source: Sutcliffe 2010a p.18 link).

[There's a] recipe that has worked well ... The basic ingredients are insulated Westerners and developing world poverty and the method consists of grinding the two together until you produce an emulsified paste of galvanised social conscience and guilt (Source: Sutcliffe 2010b np link).

We thought about doing one in Britain about British people working in the migrant work forces; fruit picking and flower picking, factory work here. But, for the viewers, part of the pleasure has been going somewhere totally different to our world (Source: Christie-Miller 2010 np link).

Jo Bishop is the producer of Blood, Sweat and Takeaways … [She] and her colleagues also had to 'rough it' on location as they researched and filmed the series. She said: 'We selected six young people to take part and they were all warned that it would be a tough, life-changing experience. 'But, no matter how many times we said this, they still had no idea how hard it would be’ (Source: Anon 2009c np link).

When casting the British people for the series we wanted a cross section of Britain today, not just ticking racial groups but also regional. Each person chosen had to have a strong connection to the product, had to be big consumers of the product. We needed to document their journey, experience and learning. We needed ordinary and accessible people. Our casting directors scoured the nation through websites, street castings and newspapers ads. The factories asked to see the program before it went out. None of the factories had any complaints at all about how we portrayed them. When we spoke to the workers they were all very proud to have that job because the alternatives are much worse; working in a landfill, in a food processing factory in a slum or the sex industry. The bosses were very happy with it; it showed it how it was. We weren’t going out there to reveal shocking exploitation; the guys are very well looked after, subsidised food, … £3 for them was pretty amazing compared to 20p for recycling for example. … We were always with this series aiming to just make people think about where stuff comes from and the hard work that goes into it. We were trying to be the catalyst for getting people to think a bit more, if you are more aware of these things then you can try to find solutions yourself, it is a discussion opener I think because we don’t have a solution, I think it is globalisation and the way the world is. We are hoping to raise the awareness of these issues; to get young people talking and thinking (Source: Christie-Miller 2010 np link).

I was in the initial meetings for [Blood, Sweat and] T-shirts and it was about that phenomenon of Primark which was always in the news in terms of the famous opening sale on Oxford street where there was absolute chaos; kind of riots almost - how people were proud of getting a cheap item from Primark and there was no thought of the human cost behind it. … From top class restaurants to low cost supermarkets, we take it for granted that we can buy whatever food we want, whenever we want it. But would we feel the same if we knew the human cost of food production? When eating a tin of tuna we never think about where it’s come from and the hardship that people have put into it; you might think about whether its dolphin friendly but you don’t think about the people who have been working very hard to make that for you and the process of catching a tuna fish to make that meat for you. … I was involved with the set up of Takeaways, it had a reputation for cameras not being allowed into factories; they are very concerned about being viewed as dirty, unhygienic conditions. … Initially, we didn’t get into Thailand. We basically couldn’t get into the chicken factory or any food factories at all in Thailand and at this point we questioned whether we could do this at all. … We tried the Philippines, and nearly secured it in a very rural location but the Independent Liberation Front started tourist attacks; terrorism, bombs etc. BBC disallowed filming here. We then found the tuna factory in Indonesia and a new Thai fixer whose name translated as ‘knighted by the king’ and therefore got us into the chicken factory! Then, we went off and did lots of rekkies; me and the other guy Tim Quicke spent about 7 weeks over in Indonesia and Thailand in November/ December 2008, to find locations and getting the access. The hardest part is getting the factory boss to sign the contract ... finding out the conditions workers were in in the factory, where they lived. We started filming in January 2009. Factories are notoriously hard to get access to in terms of filming (Source: Christie-Miller 2010 np link).

Discussion / Responses

It is, as Oscar Wilde said, about knowing the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Both [Blood, Sweat and T Shirts and Blood, Sweat and Takeaways] series documented the true cost of working at the bottom of the chain in the food and textiles industries in a bid to make the young consumers featured in the show - and us at home by extension - the true worth of what we pay for. Question is, will we watch and care - or just watch? (Source: English 2010 p.15 link).

This program is not advised for those who prefer to believe that steak begins life via a kind of immaculate conception, wrapped in plastic, on supermarket shelves. Those more rigorously interested in the truth will find much to fathom. The extreme conditions the workers endure affects each of the Brits differently, as does their hand-to-mouth existence. Shudder (Source: Cuthbertson 2009 p.46).

… this is depressing for all kinds of reasons but mainly because with all the food scares and health advice we're bombarded by, now this programme wants to make me feel guilty about eating tinned tuna - one of the few stress-free meal options I thought I had left (Source: Simon 2009 p.43 link).

It makes me sad. I or you could be born there too. Life is HELL (Source: papilonluv 2012 np link).

Ignorance and insouciance is the important flavour here. There must be countless young people, informed about and interested in developing-world issues, who would have leapt at the chance to find out where our tinned tuna and cheap supermarket prawns actually comes from, but the BBC has carefully sifted all the good apples out to leave us only with the spoiled ones, those whose education will come as a kind of rebuke (Source: Sutcliffe 2009 np link).

Quality control wasn't perfect on the picking line. Somehow, Stacey, who describes herself as a 'concerned consumer', got through to the final six, and then effectively demonstrated how flavourless the thoughtful can be, in television terms. She didn't whine and moan about the conditions, she didn't dry-heave when she was shown the shanty-town toilets (as Manos did), she just got on with things and did her allotted job reasonably well. Which isn't the point at all frankly. We want hissy fits so that the learning and hugging, when it comes, is all the more piquant. Lauren, I'm glad to say, was much better value, grizzling sulkily when she had to lose her nail polish (and manicured fingernails) to work in an Indonesian tuna-packing plant and then fainting after just 10 minutes on the line (Source: Sutcliffe 2009 np link).

I'd been looking forward to Blood, Sweat And Takeaways … . It involved takeaway lovers confronting the third-world methods of obtaining the ingredients. Unfortunately, a good premise for a series was ruined by a fight between two of the Britons, allowing the programme to descend into reality TV. A producer could easily have intervened to stop this happening or it could have been edited out. Is this the only way you can attract a younger audience, BBC Three? (Source: Anon 2009d p.70).

This show … let it be an eye-opener … . It was cleverly done to show how people took things for granted e.g. taking advantage on food cheaply & hygienically produced in poor countries, how middlemen exploited the farmers on unfair trade and a disequilibrium on economics i.e. the developed countries exploiting on the poor countries. Recently, workers in China committed suicide on low wages offered by mega companies of the west … is this human rights? (Source: 3muzic 2011 np link).

Why would they go out their expecting to do as well as the farmers? On any job ... it takes weeks to get the hang of it ... even if its simple, still takes getting used to (Source: dlferich 2012 np link).

… except for James - were they all picked for their being spoiled kids? When you choose for such an experience, you just grit your teeth and go for it (Source: JAJ1GreenberryHill 2013 np link).

They spend 1 week over there and all of a sudden they're qualified experts. Don't forget that documentaries are scripted just like television shows. Ever shot, every scene, every word is chosen to portray a story or message (Source: deardru 2012a np link).

A very good thing to show why one has to buy fair trade food. A bit annoyed though by the mistakes. The rent is nowhere near realistic. Another thing: they forget to mention food and a house are just basics: you need clothes, etc. (Source: JAJ1GreenberryHill 2013 np link).

there is no way that rent would be 450 baht per day (13,500 baht per month) in an Isaan village. That house would fetch 3,000 baht per month at most. So, the numbers don't quite add up! (Source: Malone 2013 np link).

A hous like this should cost 3-4000 baht / month not13500! They go to Udon Thani hospital, its 10 hours from Bangkok but they say they are 6 hours from Bangkok. The thai laugh when they talk not smile so they are joking. You can rent a good standard house in Udon Thani for 6000 baht/month. This is not Documentary TV it's fake or the thais are cheating the britts (Source: Udonthaniman 2013 np link).

Complete misrepresentation of the economic facts. The house would probably? cost 450 baht per month not per night. Salaries are now a minimum of 300 baht daily. For a couple of hundred baht they could have bought good thai food that would have fed them all. The TV company think we are as brainless as the kids they sent out there! (Source: Tucker 2013 np link).

Yeah, 450 could buy you a decent hotel room almost anywhere in Thailand. Though that hotel room might be a bit small for six people. If anything, I suppose the price is a reference to the little interchange at around the 15 minute mark [in the Rice episode] where the worker says that they don't have work all year round, so perhaps it's realistic if we calculate the cost of the house for the whole year considering that one won't have work all year round (Source: Viljarism 2012a np link).

there faces at 17:00 were priceless. welcome to the reality (Source: tmeng87 2012 np link).

But it's not ‘reality’, they got screwed with their high rent lol ..... hmmm although foreigners always get screwed there so maybe it is reality (Source: tim3854 2012 np link).

... pretty whimpy lot if ever there was. Can not even cut up some fish because it is a bit unsanitary and the smell is bad. Truth is, Thailands poverty conditions are not near as bad as say India or Bangledesh and some parts of China and even the Philippines in many parts. It is up to the Thais to resolve the problems in Thailand .. but that will not be happening (Source: happyharv1 2013 np link).

Hahaha... Pathetic. Don't get me wrong, I'm Thai and know the difference of living standards between here and the UK but to see the others bugger off and James doing ‘hard work’ just shows how ‘spoiled’ young Brits are, whining and debating so much. Good on you James lad! (Source: Andiotic 2012a np link).

Something phony about this. How do palefaces from the UK not get sunburned in the rice fields while the Thais, who have sun-damaged skin, cover as much of their skin as possible? I lived under canvas in Isaan for 7 months, and I often saw rice planters, mostly women, with blackened teeth, the result of chewing betel nut, a narcotic used to dull the pain of doing their work. I myself didn't do back-breaking labor as these people are purported to have done, but I burned myself to a crisp often (Source: anghmho 2013 np link).

Looking at this video .. the girls makeup is all perfect, not runny, as if, they were working in the sun for even 10 minutes. None of their hair is sweaty. No sweat under their arms. Their tee shirts are clean. It's like they've been hanging out in their air conditioned trailer before the video (Source: hypnosiscenter nyc 2012 np link).

I get it. Western people are bad, because they exploit the Asians who otherwise wouldn't have to work so hard. But why do the Asians work? Is someone forcing them? Doesn't western money put bread on their table? Guess what would happen to the Thai people if we were to stop importing from their country? But no, to the ‘compassionate Libtards’ the westerns are bad bad bad, constantly exploiting the weaker humans and harming mother earth in the process (Source: yidy1 2012 np link).

Just proves most of us have too much in the west. However, we still have people living in relative poverty. And it doesn't have to be this way (Source: chris103050 2012 np link).

Excellent documentary! Makes me appreciate the rice from Thailand and the people of Thailand. I have been to Thailand 11 times, the people are great. I will have a better respect for the workers, and will think about the people while on the MTS when they announce ‘Next stop: Klong Toei ! I love these Brits for doing this documentary (Source: kksd2 2013 np link).

I like this documentary and admire the people who took part … to give us a little insight to how Thai people live. We are completely two different cultures and think that people should help one another rather than criticize. We will never understand the life and culture of Thai people like they do but we can learn a little. The woman who shed tears in this video has shed tears because she is not accustomed to the Thai way of hard life, she can’t help it, it’s just a human reaction (Source: TONYLOUISE100 2012 np link).

As a farm girl in Canada, this [episode’s chicken] gutting house looks a bit unsanitary but but typical. It is funny how James stands out so much, it is really just his farming background. Raising, killing, gutting and cooking are all points in the relationship between man and animals. Those other poor snots, are trying, but they have never experienced this part of real life. Food is dead stuff, and some of that takes some very nasty and hard work to refine to a level we in the west are accustomed to seeing (Source: msmaryhorsefly 2013 np link).

That chicken factory turns my gut. I could never work there and feel sorry for the chickens. Lion kills buffalo and it is not a good sight. We have to eat and the Thai people have to make a living. I just wish we as human could find another way to treat chickens before we eat them. (Source: TONYLOUISE100 2012 np link).

these young brits have obviously never touch a raw chicken breast or leg and cook it at home or a cornish hen where you remove the giblets and stuff it with stuffing! this is so strange to me how did theyre parents manage to raise them without teaching them how to cook from scratch. i really like these kids, theyre sweet and nice kids but gees they really need to get out more and all god learn how to cook (Source: traceymallard 2012 np link).

Worth thinking about is that the most slow are those with a foreign background lol ... Wow these English youth clowns are unbelievable slow-:) (Source: globe255 2012a np link).

Hahaha, they are slow because they keep being interviewed by the camera crew! (Andiotic 2012b np link).

If only I can get my children to watch this ... then, perhaps they might stop drilling me about sh*t they don't need and sulking about how ‘unfortunate’ they are when they can't get what they WANT! (Source: jennyburger07 2012 np link).

That still might now work. Kids nowadays REALLY under appreciate a lot of things. A lot of kids watching this may say, ‘Well, I don't know why those people went all the there to torture themselves. Stupid’. You have to get them to experience the hardship first hand physically. I learned how hard it is to make living since I was 13, helping my parents' work. Well due to that, after 12 years of manual labor, I really got tired of labor work. Now I'm doing less physically stressful work (Source: SinnerJ 2012 np link).

James is amazing, Me myself, I wouldn't give any of the money to the other people who didnt help out at first at the fish factory.. They cheated themselfs and ruined this whole documentary, It wasn't raw (besides james) They all were supposed to experience how hard it is for other people and the other people don't have choices to be in a nice hotel (Source: NameTheLlama 2012 np link).

... idiot james .. he is going there and feeling bad for the people .. but he says he wants people to buy local brit meat only .. if that happens these people would lose there job (Source: davejones8 2012 np link).

For those British youths, this tv program is just an ‘experience’ because they expect to leave after the program is over. However, for those villagers, those ‘tough works’ are their ways of lives, which determine how they live ... . I respect those Thai farm workers that fed the world (Source: inferno0020 2012 np link).

It's an excellent idea to send young Brits off to work in the developing-world hellholes where their food comes from, which is what happens in Blood, Sweat and Takeaways (BBC3). I'm not thinking about the kids themselves; I don't know, or care very much, what they get out of it. I'm thinking about me, the viewer at home, and very entertaining it is, too. But what must it be like for the locals - in this first one, the people of Sulawesi? One Monday morning, you turn up at the tuna-processing factory where you work long hours for almost nothing, and find you're being joined by a film crew and six young English people playing Let's Pretend We're Poor Indonesians. Well, they say they're English, but the English they speak is nothing like the English you learned in school. They say 'Oh my God' or 'I'm telling you' between every other word; 'literally' everything is 'epic'; and everything ends with 'do you know what I mean?' They behave strangely, too. They faint, and retch violently on encountering an Indonesian toilet for the first time. The girls wear almost nothing, are very emotional and cry a lot. The boys fight - especially Olu, who throws Manos through a piece of plate glass at a factory on day one and is immediately sent home to Tottenham. End of, as they say. And they're totally crap at the work: can't loin, can't skin, can't do nothing. 'I worked my arse off for these f*cking fish,' says Jess, but it's not good enough and she's demoted to gutting. The boys, meanwhile, are out on a boat (they've been banned from the factory for being too violent), and are proving more rubbish still at fishing. Even when they're in the middle of the biggest shoal of tuna the world has ever seen - and oh my God it is literally raining tuna, epically, all around them - it's still not happening for Manos and Josh, big time, d'know what I mean? (Source: Wollaston 2009 p.27 link).

Workers in Thailand are not dropped of in country and expected to survive. They have family networks, and spend their early lives preparing for the day they will have to survive on their own. I'm not saying that their lives are not hard, because they are, but this in reality would never work, and they would indeed starve to death. Interesting to watch? regaurdless (Source: 62636263c 2012 np link).

Last night, these unfortunate individuals found themselves working in a tuna-processing plant in Indonesia - stifling heat, fish guts, 40p an hour and people shouting at them in Indonesian. Few of them - and few viewers who saw this programme, I would suppose - are now able to muster any warm feelings about tuna mayonnaise sandwiches. There was a sound point here, about the exploitation of workers in poor countries, and the real costs of cheap food. Unfortunately, it was stifled somewhat by our panel of intrepid guinea pigs, who ranged from the unremarkable to the downright nasty. The worst was sent home after pushing one of his team-mates into a glass door. As a result, the factory management refused to allow any of the other British males back on to the premises. Rather than feeling angry on behalf of the poor, exploited tuna-gutters of Indonesia, this reviewer just felt embarrassed about his fellow countrymen. When not flinging punches, or engaging in theatrical bouts of retching every time they encountered an unfamiliar smell, our team expressed the sort of empty platitudes you might get out of a Christmas cracker: 'This has changed me forever. I'll never think the same way about tuna again.' 'These people have got so little but they're so cheerful.' If I wanted to hear this sort of juvenile drivel, I'd have taken a flight to Goa and checked into a backpackers' hostel. And the sad thing is that, without a doubt, this TV production is being welcomed into all these far-flung places precisely because the BBC is such a widely known and respected organisation. If only they knew, eh? (Source: Baylis 2009 p.47).

… the series still can't disguise its essential BBC3-ness. So whenever we aren't being slapped around the face with sobering statistics and images of horrendous work and living conditions, were invited to chortle derisively at the foolishness of the Brits. It's The Apprentice with a conscience. A bunch of moaning, whining, petulant ninnies, they were initially repelled by almost everything they encountered. .... Short of sending Prince Philip and a rabid bulldog, our great nation couldn't have chosen worse ambassadors. (Source: Whitelaw 2009 p.50).

Some stuck up spoilt brats there making us brits look foolish and ignorant to the rest of the world. Typical BBC ... this is what our tv licence fees are spent on (Source: korat 2012 np link).

i hate it when these programmes find the biggest waste of spaces from the UK. They clearly are very weak minded, moaning, ill-disciplined munch of spoilt idiots. These local Thai people may never see a British nalional and if all they see are these idiots it reflects very badly on us. This programme would be far better if they got people who can just get on with a job and not just moan (Source: fost20 2012 np link).

good god, what mindless drivel. Why are these young privileged idiots all of a sudden qualified to comment on the lives and working conditions of others? What makes it worse is that they all think they are sharing pearls of wisdom. Ridiculous (Source: matie26 2012 np link).

these bbc 3 docs do the same for the image of twenty something brits as mtv docs do to self centered, naive and pampered americans (Source: deardru 2012b np link).

British people are not a good ethnic group for comparision for the purposes of this documentary. They are a squeamish heap of wimps who cannot handle any degree of discomfort. And I'm an Australian who has been to Bangkok twice (Source: Harman 2013 np link).

Young people who have never worked, who went to a University that was paid by Mom & Dad have a very tough time understanding life.. if ever (Source: humaner 2013 np link).

Why can't these girls speak properly? Why does the UK have to send ... [them] to Thailand to represent the UK youth. What a terrible shame, but then it is all stage-managed by the TV company, isn't it! (Source: 577666 2012 np link).

Lower-class speech speech irks me, too, but it seems to be increasingly accepted. Too bad (Source: anghmho 2012 np link).

I'm peeved by the subtitles when the Thai are speaking English as it seems condescending to the viewers, but it is BBC3! The locals they spoke to seemed nice (Source: sunnygirly2k4 2012 np link).

Well, I guess they are just giving their opinions and what has happened throughout their time there, and their own personal experiences (Source: Lexi Lass 2012 np link).
I know its a little off topic but does anyone know what song it is at 36.14, I really like it (Source: hyperventil8 2012 np link).

The song is called ‘We Walk’ by The Ting Tings (Source: TopshelferDude 2012 np link).

Does anyone know the song @ 53:50 i want to know please reply D: (Source: theMarcus4131 2012 np link).

Song is ‘Kids’ by MGMT (Source: TopshelferDude 2012 np link).

F**k you for putting Chemical Brothers and Justice on such a sh*tty documentary (Source: anevershiftingsun 2012 np link).

Great Doco. Not so much the experience these guys had, but how some of these people have to live and survive. I live in Thailand and im lucky enough to have some of the things these poor workers dont have. It makes you think how lucky some of us are and we shouldnt complain about petty stuff when theres other people who have it worse than we do and dont even complain (Source: patrickpattaya1978 2013 np link).

i'm thai and i'm glad that you see problem other foreigner think thais be happy with poverty because they are believe tourism advertising on tv (Source: walking9away 2013 np link).

All tho the problem here in thailand goes far deeper then the food industy, i think this was a good way to open the eyes of a few people about problems facing thai people. Respect to James for wanting to come back over here and try to help the farmers produce more. i only wish more farang could come to thailand and see REAL thailand, not just bangkok, phuket, samui, etc... (Source: MrNiitriiX 2012 np link).

Im an English girl and was brought up on a council estate but live in bangkok now and it makes me cringe that these brits don't understand that it all looks bad to them because they have never done a hard days work and unlike the Thais they are afriad of getting their middle class hands dirty. Young brits are just lazy and they need to grow some balls. Oh and they are being so patronizing towards the Prostitutes and other Thai workers (Source: ecomoore 2012 np link).

This is a genuine look at real life in Thailand. It is really hard work and many girls have to make huge sacrifices to look after their families. Most westerners have it much too easy. Don't look down on what you dont know. This show is only one side of Thailand. ‘Every coin has two sides.’ ... Thank you Stacey for helping people to understand about the other side of life for Thai girls (Source: TheresaAya007 2012 np link).

While bar girls make more money than they could've done working in other sectors, it probably isn't the work these girls dreamt of doing as little kids (Source: Viljarism 2012b np link).

Isnt there a place on the net where you can support those girls who needs support? (Source: globe255 2012b np link).

Overall, this show for me was more about the Indonesians than it was about the Brits sent over there to live their lives for a week, and I’ll never feel quite the same about opening a tin of tuna again. In fact, this show could easily have had the same – if not a bigger – impact by not having the Brits on it, but it did show them at least that their lives aren’t so bad after all… Next week, the journey continues and the Brits get to live and work alongside workers in the prawn industry. I wonder how many of them are going to gag and faint then?? I’ll be watching to find out but only as an aside to making me personally more aware of the ethics of hunting for the cheapest food I can as opposed to buying that which is of the ‘fairtrade’ ilk (Source: Lynn 2009 np link).

Predictably, the callow 'am I bovvered?' attitude to developing-world welfare began to melt immediately [in this episode]. Manos … apologis[ed] to a mildly bemused group of fishermen, who were presumably hoping that his new found conscience wouldn't actually stop him buying their fish. If there is a problem with Blood, Sweat and Takeaways it is that it doesn’t make it terribly clear what practical steps a British consumer might take to improve conditions of people half-a-world away boycott tuna or buy more of it? But it makes a pretty persuasive case that the question should actually matter to us (Source: Sutcliffe 2009 np link).

This 'scene' with all those fish being thrown into the boat was like watching some contemporary art. You could not have composed it even if you tried!! Loved this programme, and i wish the government would simply send all English youths with not ounce of respect out there. People in prison in UK have more human rights and quality of life than what these incredibly humble people have. Guys we must start buying more ethical tuna, or start lobbying our supermarkets. Any links to info appreciated (Source: Natashadoingit 2010 np link).

I’m finding this documentary interesting so far, but what i find weird is we’re not told what to buy as a more ethical alternative (Source: xxstarchildxx 2010 np link).

With a title that makes you want to run amok with an AK-47, all that's missing from Blood, Sweat and Takeaways (BBC3), on the ethical dilemmas of cheap food, is a wee sign for the hard of thinking: DON'T EAT IT (Source: Docherty 2009 p.17)

Caught by Indonesian fishermen who earned £3 for a two-day voyage, gutted and filleted by women in factories working six-day weeks at 40p an hour, tuna, in the space of one hour's revelatory television, became a new object of guilt. Perhaps, pace Jamie Oliver, it is better to eat a factory chicken produced by people on a living wage, than a tin of tuna from M& S, Tesco or Sainsbury's brought to your table (or secreted in your surgical gown) by a system of economic slavery (Source: Billen 2009 p.17).

You know, every time I open a can of tuna, I wonder if today is the day I'll find a severed finger or something else unmentionable (Source: Cuthbertson 2009 p.46).

As an occasional consumer of tuna I'm glad to say that the hygiene standards looked extremely high, though I won't ever open a tin as blithely again after seeing how labour-intensive the process is. 'When do we finish?' asked one nervous novice as they were being prepared for their first day. 'We finish when the fish is finished,' replied the supervisor (Source: Sutcliffe 2009 np link).

To the series credit, it does discuss wages in relation to production, explaining, for example, how each worker in a tuna factory receives $5 a day for cleaning enough tuna loins to fill 600 cans that the company sells for 80 cents a tin. What this means is each worker is paid about .8 cents for each can, barely 1 percent of the sale price. But within the genre of reality TV, such exposure also serves as sensationalistic 'poorism.' We ogle at the squalor, allowing us to appreciate our comfortable lifestyles. Likewise, the aim of this series is not to present solutions to Third World poverty, but to fix the attitudes of spoiled first-world visitors, who are the true subjects (Source: Gupta and Fawcett 2010 np link).

Blood Sweat and Takeaways misses the route causes of exploitation of workers in the third world. Rather than examine the political system which leads to poor people in developing countries living on poverty wages and working in appaling conditions it holds consumers in the West accountable for the plight of third world workers. Sending ‘spoilt brats’ to work in factories in third world countries may satisfy the class hatred of the liberals who make such programmes as this but it won’t change the capitalist system which puts profit before people and makes our society rely on food and other products produced by slave labor. Only by challenging the corporations, bosses and governments who permit such exploitation to go on will things change (Source: Dan 2009 np link).

For our part, we must let companies know that ethical trade is not a niche concern, but a standard each of us expects of those we trust with our custom. ‘Be an ethical pest’ (Source: Rees 2009 np link).

The lack of choice and agency is a refrain throughout the series. 'You see poverty, seeing it close up, smelling it close up, how can people choose to live like this. But that's the point, there is no choice,' says Josh. 'Over here, you don't have choice. Either you do it or you starve yourself to death,' says Jess. Never asked are the seemingly obvious questions: what are the roots of this poverty; how can the economic system be changed; what are the alternatives? Instead, we are taught to accept life as it is, disciplining labor and behavior on either side of the commodity chain, with humility and grace. By engaging with the 'natural' workings of the market, they learn there is no alternative to it. … What the privileged youth and viewers really learn about the true human cost of consuming cheap food, clothes, and electronics is that there is not much they can do to address brutal poverty or working conditions in the Global South. The only thing they really can change, we are led to believe, is themselves. Poverty still has a role to play, though the Brits' encounters with poverty lead to minor adjustments in their personalities, lifestyles, and consumption habits (Source: Gupta and Fawcett 2010 np link).

how does this video changes the lives of Thai people? (Source: RicardoDavid182 2012 np link).

Understandably, some viewers say programmes like this simply make them feel guilty, and that the more they know, the more helpless they feel. Retailers, given their huge buying power, can fundamentally influence conditions in international supply chains for the better (Source: Rees 2009 np link).

It's hard to see what can be done about such entrenched injustice. All the businesses featured in this series meet European Union import standards and Western consumers aren't exactly screaming out for the price of prawns to be doubled so the people who produce them can buy mattresses to sleep on. In Australia, it's particularly hard to fill a shopping trolley with ethically sound groceries, although many supermarkets stock Fairtrade coffee, while Oxfam shops stock a range of other fair-trade products (Source: Newsome 2009 p.40).

Boycotting cheap food made in these countries is not the answer. Buying Fair Trade is a start, but I think the answer is to bring in laws that raise standards, to make sure food we buy in the UK is being produced by workers that are living decent lives, rather then just surviving for our benefit (Source: Stacey 2009 np link).

Thats always a tricky thing. Fair trade is always something people put up as a solution. But in the papers this week, they are saying that Fair Trade can sometimes screw the local producers more because they have to pay to sign up to fair trade (Source: Christie-Miller 2010 np link).

Beseeching supermarket customers to buy fair trade bananas appears to be the most radical action, embraced by Josh. But he is unable to think beyond the market. Buying fair trade bananas allows Josh to feel valorized in his consumption at a premium price even if the actual return to the workers is minimal (as it is with many fair trade products). In the end, the self-absorbed youth understand their good fortune to be at the luxurious end of the pole sustained by the immiserated masses at the other end (Source: Gupta and Fawcett 2010 np link).

‘Takeaways' and 'T-Shirts' make visible the bottom of the commodity chain only to obscure its enormous middle - the corporations, politicians, bureaucrats, and financiers that make up modern capitalism. There is no talk of the role transnational corporations, banks, or markets play in ordering the production, distribution, and consumption of goods. We don't hear how Western states, the World Bank, IMF, and WTO force and bribe developing world politicians into lowering their economies' defenses, decimating social welfare and workers' rights protections, while prioritizing export-oriented production. When this middle collapses, we are left with individuals on either side tossing personal responsibility back and forth like a hot potato (Source: Gupta and Fawcett 2010 np link).

For all the sadistic pleasure to be had watching these young people suffer when deprived of luxuries and made to work hard, the series serves to highlight the conditions from which some of our food gets to us. If people continue to think and question after the programme is over, some good might have been done (Source: Pratt 2009 p.19).

Outcomes / Impacts

BBC Three's factual output gets serious ideas to the harder-to-reach young audience in a way I'm very proud of - Blood, Sweat and Takeaways [Ricochet] and World's Strictest Parents [Twenty Twenty] were standouts (Source: Entwistle 2010 p.29 link).

BBC3 documentary Blood, Sweat And Takeaways picked up an [Rose d'Or TV] award for best reality and factual entertainment (Source: Anon 2010a np).

The BBC3 show picked up the award for Best Popular Factual Programme (at Broadcast Digital Awards 2010) … The four-part series – made by Ricochet – gained almost 1 million viewers on its initial airing, making it BBC3’s most successful documentary ever, and won a transfer to the 10.30pm slot on BBC1, when the same instalment was watched by 2 million. The show was a clear winner for the judges in what they described as ‘a wide-open field (Source: The Production Wizard 2010 np link).

The six young Brits grow wiser and more compassionate about the realities of global food production (Josh and Stacey have already raised issues on Newsnight) (Source: Johns 2009 p.12).

On Monday night Josh and Stacey, the most mature of the six guinea pigs, appeared on [BBC2’s] Newsnight, a [TV] programme that still recognises good journalism when it sees it. Both wiped the bloody, fish-scaled floor with the apologist from the British Retail Consortium who kept saying that a supermarket's profit on a tin of tuna was 3p. Stacey, who knew her stuff, disputed the figure but wanted to know why an extra penny could not go to the producers. Josh noted that after all the concentration on the welfare of animals consumers deserved to be reassured about the welfare of people. The emotionless woman from the consortium said change takes time. Back in Bitung, the group's hostess and temporary boss, is, presumably, still working six days a week in order to piece together the bus fare to see the children her wages cannot support. Now there's someone working her arse off for our effing health (Source: Billen 2009 p.17).

My name is Stacey and I'm a fashion student. When I got an offer, along with five others, of travelling to this corner of the world to experience the conditions people working in the food industry face every day, I was curious. The experience has changed my life. ... I look at food in a different way now. I see food as fuel, not as something to gorge on purely for pleasure. Since returning to the UK, I am faced with a moral dilemma every time I visit a supermarket. I look for the fairer option, but if it's not available I feel helpless. I still want to support the fantastic people we met in SE Asia, but by doing this I'm supporting the system that I'm disagreeing with, a system which shows little regard for workers' rights. British consumers are massively benefiting from the cheap labour of these workers, and it's something I feel we have simply come to accept by pushing it to the back of our minds where no-one can see it. (Source: Stacey 2009 np link).

This was an extremely enlightening show for me because, like many of us, and especially like the six teenagers in last night’s show, I never gave much thought to where my food comes from – well, that’s not entirely true; I do give thought to which supermarket I’m going to buy it from, but its origins? Nope, I have to say, I’d never really thought about it overly much. So the raison d’etre for last night’s show had the desired effect on me anyway as it graphically showed how one of Britain’s best-selling foods is produced, that food being tuna (Source: Lynn 2009 np link).

'After experiencing this for myself, I'd like to see much more emphasis on Fair Trade. I now realise that the Co-op is a great champion of Fair Trade, trying to make sure that the workers are not exploited and do have access to such things as health care and clean water. We need much more awareness. Most supermarkets offer Fair Trade bananas, coffee and chocolate but it would be good if this could be expanded into other kinds of food as well.' [says producer] Jo [Bishop who] is hoping to continue in the field of campaigning journalism, but so far has not chosen her next project (Source: Anon 2009c np link)

BBC3 controller Danny Cohen has unveiled a factual heavy autumn season which includes a return for presenter Stacey Dooley's hard hitting documentaries. Dooley, who appeared in Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts for the channel in 2008 and Blood, Sweat and Takeaways last year, returns with two new programmes. Stacey Dooley Investigates - Kids With Guns profiles child soldiers in the Congo while Child Sex Trafficking In Cambodia investigates under-age sex trafficking (Source: Anon 2010b np).

After takeaways, there were lots of people emailing asking what can we do about it and for [our next series] Blood, Sweat and Luxuries, the BBC set up a blog, public access website forum which became one of the busiest and most sought after discussion forums in terms of people asking questions of how to help change. It became a hub for people that have been affected by this programme and they started discussing amongst themselves what we can do about it (Source: Christie-Miller 2010 np link).

Following last year’s Blood, Sweat and Takeaways, which explored the human cost of food production in South-East Asia and became Three’s highest-ever rating factual programme, this new five-parter [Blood, Sweat and Luxuries] looks at the human cost of making luxury goods for we decadent Westerners (Source: Devine 2010 p.19).

… Blood, Sweat and Luxuries  … [is] another affecting, rude-awakening series from the makers of Blood, Sweat and Takeaways. This time six spoiled, luxury-loving young Britons are headed to Africa and Asia to find themselves working for a pittance alongside the people on the very bottom rungs of the gold, sapphire, coffee and clothing industries. They’ll also join the people who eke out a hazardous and meagre existence breaking up the discarded computers and electronics that are shipped to Africa by the container-load for recycling (Source: Newsome 2010 p.34).

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Compiled by Harriet Clarke, Ben Thomson, Victoria Bartley, Katie Ibbetson-Price, Emma Christie-Miller and Harry Schofield, edited by Emma Christie-Miller, Sabrina Skau & Ian Cook (last updated April 2013). Page created for as part of the ‘Geographies of Material Culture’ module at the University of Exeter. Legoing by Sabrina Skau.