Supermarket Co-op drops Thai coconut milk over use of monkey slave labour

supermarket co-op drops thai coconut milk over use of monkey slave labour

Monkey slaves

Supermarket Co-op has said it will no longer sell coconut milk sourced from Thailand, after campaigning by an animal rights group that accused coconut farms in the country of using monkey labour.

Instead, the grocer’s own brand of coconut milk is sourced from Sri Lanka, where monkey labour is not used for harvesting coconuts.

Animal rights charity PETA has asked the company to extend this policy to include branded Thai coconut milk products and is urging everyone to avoid buying them due to the rampant abuse involved in their production.

It’s the charity’s third investigation into the coconut industry in Thailand – which saw campaigners visit farms and training facilities in nine provinces – and what it uncovered was horrifying.

One trainer was caught on camera dangling a screaming monkey by the neck and striking him with a tether.

supermarket co-op drops thai coconut milk over use of monkey slave labour

Monkey slaves

Another monkey used for breeding was kept chained alone in the sun, without access to water, while other young monkeys languished in cramped cages.

Coconut pickers said that the monkeys sometimes incur broken bones from falling out of – or being yanked down from – trees, and a worker confirmed that most monkeys are kidnapped from their families in nature, even though the species exploited by the coconut trade are threatened or endangered.

Dr Carys Bennett, PETA Senior Corporate Projects Manager, told the Express: “The Co-op is living up to its cooperative namesake by taking this compassionate step to avoid cruelly obtained coconut milk, and we urge the Thai Government to put an end to the exploitative practice of forcing captive monkeys to harvest coconuts.”

Several companies have stopped selling some Thai coconut products over the years after campaigning by PETA, but it is now calling on all retailers – including Whole Foods – to stop selling such products until monkeys are no longer “used and abused for profit”.

supermarket co-op drops thai coconut milk over use of monkey slave labour

Monkey slaves

supermarket co-op drops thai coconut milk over use of monkey slave labour

Monkey slaves

The Thai government last year rejected PETA’s claims of widespread abuse, saying the traditional practice of using monkeys to harvest coconuts is almost non-existent in industry, which, due to its scale, instead depends upon human labour and machinery.

In 2021, Thailand exported 236,323 metric tonnes of coconut milk, worth 12,800 million baht (£279,000), according to the Department of Agriculture.

At the time, it began issuing certificates to farms to verify that they are monkey-free to address concerns over animal cruelty, but the charity said the practice is still rife.

PETA’s expose linked forced monkey labour to Suree – a brand which used to produce canned coconut milk for Co-op, as well as Chaokoh, Ampol Food Processing, Cocoburi, Tropicana Oil, Thai Pure Coconut Co, Ampawa, Edward & Sons Trading Co, and Aroy-D.

Consumers are being urged to always check the labels on coconut milk products, and whether it’s in a can, a box, or other packaging, if it reads, “Product of Thailand,” leave the item on the shelf.

Coconut water typically – but not always – comes from coconuts grown on dwarf trees, including the Nam Hom variety, and harvesting them doesn’t involve monkey labour.

Pig-tailed macaques are used in the trade, according to Oxford Brookes University, which are classed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The monkeys are native to Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, with introduced populations in Singapore and the Natuna Islands.

Other threats to the species include ongoing habitat loss due to the conversion of their forests to other land-use forms, as well as hunting, collection for the pet trade and biomedical research, and they are persecuted as pests.

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