The Current explores the red market

scott-175.jpgFirst aired on The Current (12/7/12)

Investigative journalist Scott Carney has spent several years following a trail of bodies. But they're not from murder scenes. Carney has been looking into the trade of organs, bones, blood and even living people that are bought and sold in a multi-billion-dollar global underworld market.

Carney brings us the gory details in his new book, The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers and Child Traffickers. In it, he examines how we've come to put monetary value on life and limbs.

"What makes it different than other markets is that when you're buying and selling the human body you have this double speak in language, where on one level, you say that the body is being given altruistically — these are donations, these are things that are good," he told CBC's Jim Brown on a recent episode of The Current.

"On the other side, you're also exchanging cold hard cash, and that's really the crux of what I'm looking at in this book."

Carney, who is also trained as an anthropologist, explores macabre enterprises around the world — from grave robbers who sell human bones for anatomical skeletons used in medical schools and labs to ancient temples in India selling the hair of its devotees to American wig makers.

During his research, Carney discovered many grisly stories, but one particular incident left quite an impression on him. A dairy farmer in Gorakhpur, India, had hatched a scheme to supply blood to the city's hospitals and blood banks: like a modern day vampire, he would kidnap people, lock them in a cow shed and then drain them of their blood.

Blood is an extremely sought-after commodity and is the single most lucrative product on the red market, according to Carney. The Red Cross, for example, sells $3 billion worth of blood each year.

The farmer, Papu Yadhav, was caught in 2008 after he forgot to lock the shed, which gave one of his victims a chance to escape. When police raided the so-called blood farm, they found 17 severely weak captives. After authorities interviewed the victims, they learned that some had been there for two or three years. It wasn't immediately known how many captives Yadhav had taken, as he would send off victims on the verge of death on a bus out of town so he wouldn't have to deal with their deaths.

Carney was shocked by the story, but even more aghast at how little the pay-off was for the horrific acts.

"He was only getting like $25 per pint of blood to perpetrate one of the worst crimes I've ever even imagined."

How Shakespeare Changed EverythingThe Red Market
by Scott Carney

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The Red Market reveals the rise, fall and resurgence of this multibillion-dollar underground trade through history, from early medical study and modern universities to poverty-ravaged Eurasian villages and high-tech Western labs; from body snatchers and surrogate mothers to skeleton dealers and the poor who sell body parts to survive. While local and international law enforcement have cracked down on the market, advances in science have increased the demand for human tissue — ligaments, kidneys, even rented space in women's wombs — leaving little room to consider the ethical dilemmas inherent in the flesh-and-blood trade. At turns tragic, voyeuristic, and thought-provoking, The Red Market is an eye-opening, surreal look at a little-known global industry and its implications for all our lives.

Read more at HarperCollins.

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