Slavery is the term used for the act of owning another person against their will, forcing them to work for their master and treating them like property instead of a human being.
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Practice of Slavery
Though slavery was prohibited by the World Government over 200 years before the current storyline, it still survives in certain places in the world, the Sabaody Archipelago included. It is implied that the World Government receives bribes in exchange for ignoring the slave trade. The World Nobles practice slavery, using wanted pirates, other people and races as servants, trophies and "pets". To mark them as slaves, the Celestial Dragons brand them with the symbol called "The Hoof of the Soaring Dragon" (天駆ける竜の蹄 Ama Kakeru Ryū no Hizume?, FUNimation subs translate this as the Claw of the Celestial Dragons), forever marking them as "less than human".
Slaves are treated particularly horribly. Owners, particularly Celestial Dragons, would purchase them to work them down to the bone, threatening them with death for failure and opposition of any kind. Koala was so traumatized that she continued her slavering personality after her freedom. In fact, several slaves were tortured in gruesome manners simply to entertain the owners; some who are dismissed would end up taking their own lives to spare themselves of the misery, while others would have their personalities distorted to either continue acting as slaves or come to hate the world.
Aside from the World Nobles, other people can also own slaves, if they were to buy it at certain auction houses that are (secretly) authorized by the World Government. Such an example can be Tequila Wolf, where they forced many slaves to build a bridge for 700 years.
Unfortunately, the fact that no one can harm a Celestial Dragon or stand up to them (except a fellow Celestial Dragon) means that no one can help a slave in need, or else they would risk certain death; however, brave people such as Fisher Tiger or Monkey D. Luffy may be immune to the intimidation. Aside from the "Hoof of the Soaring Dragon", the slaves also wear a Bomb Collar around their necks. If the prisoner attempts to escape from the Celestial Dragons, the collar explodes, heavily injuring (if not directly killing) the slave.
- Further information: Explosive#Bomb Collar
The Warlord Donquixote Doflamingo owned the Auction House before handing it over to his subordinate Disco. To hide the fact that slavery still exists, the sign on the door to the Auction house reads "Public Employment Security Office", a euphemism also used by the authorities to allow them to ignore this blatantly criminal enterprise.
There is also a list of how much a slave can be sold for, depending on the slave's race. Even humans are allowed to be sold, as long as they are not law abiding citizens from a World Government associated nation. The average auction starting prices are as follows:
- Humans: 500,000+
- Dwarves: 700,000+
- Mink Tribe: 700,000+
- Longarm Tribe: 700,000+
- Longleg Tribe: 700,000+
- Snakeneck Tribe: 700,000+
- Fish-Men: 1,000,000+
- Devil Fruit users: Market price
- Other rare species: Market price
Locations of Slavery
Sabaody Archipelago is a place where slavery is heavily enforced by sellers. Another known location is Tequila Wolf, where slaves were forced to build a bridge that connects the islands in the East Blue. It had been under construction for over 700 years, but was still incomplete due to the scale of the work involved, and may remain like that after all the slaves are freed by the revolutionaries. Also, Nico Robin was the newest slave there, after being teleported there by Bartholomew Kuma, and was only a slave for a short period of time.
87 years ago, Carmel earned the trust of the giants of Elbaf through a scripted exchange with the Marines, and opened up the Sheep's House on the island. From this seemingly benevolent orphanage, Carmel would sell the children with potential to the World Government once every two years to be raised as soldiers for the Marines or Cipher Pol. Since orphans have no familial connections, Carmel notes they cannot be traced, thus a good reason for utilizing them as slaves. She intended to make Charlotte Linlin her last "merchandise" to be sold off.
It is unclear when slavery started, but it has been going on for more than seven hundred years because the people of Tequila Wolf had been building the bridge for seven hundred years.
Robin told Nami that slavery was a fearful pastime of humans, reminding people at present times how fearful and cruel people were in the old days. Also, Boa Hancock and her sisters were once slaves of the World Nobles, and they suffered greatly.
Nine hundred years ago, the Donquixote Family used the dwarves of the Tontatta Kingdom for slave labor for their strength and gullibility. After the family left for Mary Geoise, the first king of the Riku Family made amends for the dwarves for the horrible treatment the preceding family had caused by granting them rights to take whatever resources they please. Upon Donquixote Doflamingo ousting the Riku Family and retaking the throne in his family's name, he reestablished his clan's practice of using dwarves for slavery.
One hundred and thirteen years ago, "Mountain Witch" Carmel was a child trafficker since she was thirty years old, specializing in selling orphans. Her modus operandi was to set up an orphanage to bring in orphans disregarding of races or statuses, under the guise of a benevolent nun. At age forty-three, she struck a deal with the World Government and Marines, putting on an act of saving captive giants of the Giant Warrior Pirates in order to gain their trust and enter Elbaf, which would allow her a greater access of "merchandise" to sell to the government. Once every two years, Carmel would sell the promising orphans to Cipher Pol agents so the children would be raised as loyal and powerful soldiers for the government, under the guise of sending them off to foster families. At age eighty, Carmel met Charlotte Linlin, a gigantic five-year old human girl with superhuman strength that could devastate half of a giants' village without so much as a scratch on herself, and decided to sell her for a high price. Carmel intended to make Linlin (her proclaimed best "merchandise") the last transaction of her career before heading into retirement. However, during Linlin's sixth birthday, Carmel and all the other orphans suddenly vanished when Linlin was finished with her birthday meal. Leaving only her habit behind, Carmel died as her Devil Fruit returned to circulation and consumed by Linlin, who would go onto becoming a pirate instead of being sold off as a government soldier, ascending to one of the Four Emperors.
Boa Hancock told Luffy the story of Fisher Tiger, who broke into Mary Geoise and freed hundreds of slaves from the Celestial Dragons. He, being a fish-man, took many fish-men and formed the Sun Pirates, with Jinbe and Arlong included. Tiger then took the symbols of the Celestial Dragons that was marked on the fish-men and transformed them into a sun, the symbol of the Sun Pirates. With the symbol modified, the Marines did not have evidence of who is a liberated slave.
Straw Hat's Separation Serial
Two Years Later
After the timeskip, the Human Auctioning House has fallen into disarray and its owner, Disco, is now a vagrant. As directly stated by Caribou, the slave trade lives on, implying that this is not the only auction house.
Anime and Manga Influences
Slavery was a huge trade during the real world's own Pirate Age. The slaves were often of African origins and had traveled across sea in appalling conditions with many dying along the way. The ones that survived the journey often ended up living a life of misery and abuse, sometimes in conditions not much better then the ones they traveled across the sea in. The branding of slaves with the owner's mark was also practiced in the real world. Just as in the One Piece storyline, in many cases the marked slaves were no longer considered human beings.
Those slaves who ended up being sold often tried to escape. Slave owners over time turned to putting traps around the edge of their property to prevent the slaves from leaving, much as the exploding collar on the One Piece slaves serves this same purpose. The slaves lucky enough to escape were unable to return home and escaping slavery was also a risky situation. When caught by the authorities, they were either returned to their masters or even put them to death for escaping. Those that were returned to their masters often faced serious punishment, usually beating or scourging, which could be so brutal that some slaves did not survive it. In the One Piece storyline, such a thing was seen with the Sun Pirates, where the Marines attacked Fisher Tiger demanding that he return the slaves he stole, even though it was impossible to tell who was a slave anymore.
As pirate crews raided ships at sea, it was not uncommon for those crews to come across slave ships. Some crews gave the slaves a chance to join the crew, these slaves often took up the offer as the life of a pirate was more often than not a better lifestyle than that of a slave. The slaves were often very thankful for their freedom and very loyal to the crews they joined. The recruitment of slaves into a pirate crew also led to a number of crews being multi-racial. In One Piece, Fisher Tiger himself was not against the idea of taking Koala on board his ship or returning her to her home island and even burned the "mark of the sun" onto her back, despite being a human. The crew itself consisted mostly of fish-men, but at least one merman was also known to be on board with the crew.
- One Piece Manga and Anime — Vol. 51 Chapter 497 and Episode 391, Devil Dias, slave of Charlos, appears.
- One Piece Manga and Anime — Vol. 76 Chapter 763 (p. 2-9) and Episode 702, Doflamingo had a nightmare of his past.
- One Piece Manga — Vol. 86 Chapter 867 (p. 11-12), Carmel reveals that Sheep's House is actually a slave shop.
- One Piece Manga and Anime — Vol. 72 Chapter 718 and Episode 648, Gancho explains the amends the dwarves are given.
- One Piece Manga and Anime — Vol. 73 Chapter 726 (p. 15) and Episode 658, Gancho recounts the odds with Doflamingo after returning to Dressrosa 10 years ago.
- One Piece Manga — Vol. 67 Chapter 659, Disco and the Human Auctioning House seen in disarray.
- One Piece Manga and Anime — Vol. 62 Chapter 612 and Episode 531, Caribou states that he plans to sell the kidnapped mermaids to an auction house.