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Copyright Rory Carnegie for the National Crime Agency

It's time to break the chain

"You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know." - William Wilberforce, MP

It’s shocking to think that many of us are unwittingly coming into contact with modern-day slavery practices in our daily lives. 

An estimated 25 million people are trapped in forced labour across the world – including here in the UK. Countless people devoid of the most basic human rights and stripped of their freedom.

There is a significant risk of modern-day slavery practices hidden within the supply chains of some of our most commonplace household goods, including the food we bring to our tables.

This needs to stop.

Help us to #BreakTheChain

On Human Rights Day, the University of Hull and its Wilberforce Institute put the hidden human cost within our food under the spotlight with the launch of a major new initiative – It’s Time to #BreakTheChain

When you can't see the problem, it's harder to see a solution. So we created a ‘human vending machine’, to bring this normally concealed issue to the high street.

Stocked with fresh produce including avocados, tomatoes, lemons and sugar, University of Hull drama students operated the machine from a see-through unit to symbolise the confinement experienced by the countless people trapped in force labour.

Now, we're asking you to help us #BreakTheChain

Help us spread the word that this problem exists and ask businesses to take action against slavery practices in their supply chains.

Hit the social media buttons above to share our video and keep reading to find out more about this issue.

What can I do to help?

Be aware of the issues and ask questions

  • As consumers we are often at a loss as to what we can do to help - Ultimately the power to make a change lies within the supply chains.

  • But we can make a difference by being aware of issues and asking companies to report on the Modern Slavery Act. Businesses with an annual turnover of £36 million or above have a legal - and moral - responsibility to eradicate slavery from their operations and their supply chains. Transparency in Supply Chains reports that only around 50% of businesses comply with the legislation. You can check what specific organisations are doing here.

  • Although only larger organisations are currently obliged to produce statements, smaller businesses will be significantly impacted as scrutiny of supply chains intensifies.

  • You can check the companies you use - where you spend your money, your time, the services you use - do they have a modern slavery statement, are you satisfied they are doing as much as they can? If not, ask them why not.

  • We are asking people to join us in influencing businesses to do more to identify and eliminate slavery from their supply chains by and sharing our film and hashtag #BreakTheChain.

See it, spot it, report it

The signs of Modern Slavery to spot are :

  • Confinement: Victims may seem under the control of or being influenced by someone else, they may rarely interact with others. They may also appear unfamiliar with their surroundings, neighbourhood, workplace, and are likely not allowed to travel on their own.

  • Living conditions: Victims work and home address may be the same address, and they may be living in unhygienic, cramped or overcrowded accommodation.

  • Physical and psychological signs: Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse such as appearing detached, or looking dishevelled and malnourished.

  • Lack of identification: Victims may have few personal possessions, no identification documents, and wear unsuitable/similar clothing day in day out.

  • Little freedom of movement: Victims have limited opportunity to move freely and have had their travel documents such as their passport taken off them.

  • Unusual travel times: It is likely victims are transported at unusual times when going to work or moving accommodation, either very early or late at night.

  • Scared and reluctant to seek help: Victims may have a loss of trust and fear law enforcers due to being scared of deportation or the risk of harm being inflicted to them or their family. Victims may appear scared and avoid eye contact or talking to strangers.

Report anything you think is suspicious. You can get support and make a report confidentially to the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or online. Alternatively you can report it to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority on 0800 432 0804.

Are you suggesting that people should stop buying and eating fresh fruit and veg?

  • We're not suggesting people do not eat! Responding to the challenge of eradicating Modern Slavery is significant and we want businesses and organisations to be accountable - Ultimately the power to make a change lies within the supply chains.

  • What we are saying is that people are – perhaps unknowingly – coming into close contact with modern-day slavery practices such as human trafficking and forced labour in our daily lives. These practices lay hidden within the supply chains to produce many of the world’s goods and services. Even commonplace household goods such as the food on our tables.

  • But it isn’t just food industries – it’s closer than you may think

  • The areas of our lives affected by forced labour are many and varied with forced labour existing in the hospitality, domestic, beauty and construction industries to name a few.

  • By buying goods and services produced – at least in part – by these exploitative practices we are unwittingly funding them.

  • More needs to be done to ensure that businesses across the board are taking a proactive approach to their due diligence on the issue. And that is what we are trying to achieve here.

Change the world with us

We’re proud of our colleagues, students and graduates who are changing lives.  They're from a range of courses, including


"Modern slavery is tragically and undoubtedly part of our everyday lives. Exploited in the UK and abroad, victims of forced labour are often involved in the production of the food we eat and the clothes we wear."

Antony Botting, Law Graduate and Modern Day Slavery Lead at Croydon Council

"It has been a privilege to be involved in this project, and a unique and exciting opportunity for me as a drama student to play such an inspirational figure."

Adan Osborne, BA (Hons) Drama Graduate, who as a student played William Wilberforce MP, bringing to life his powerful life story and fight for freedom

"Having worked for years responding to the symptoms of slavery, I wanted to research more into its root causes. Where else would I do my PhD but the WIlberforce Institute?"

Alicia Kidd, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Hull Wilberforce Institute

"My goal is to become a legislator in Nigeria. I want to influence human rights; particularly for women and children, through a political career. My politics degree at Hull has put me in good stead to pursue my dream."

Ife Sarumi, Politics Graduate

Antony Botting
Adan Osborne banner
Alicia Kidd banner
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How we can help your business

Our expertise helps leaders, business and communities tackle modern-day slavery by conducting research, carrying out audits, and digging beneath the surface to get to what's really happening.


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Headline image © Rory Carnegie for the National Crime Agency