Monkey-picked coconut boycott spreads

Monkey-picked coconut boycott spreads

Western retailers ban Thai coconut products after report by animal-rights group

A trained macaque picks coconuts from a tree in Chumphon province. An adult macaque can collect between 900 and 1,000 coconuts a day, compared with around 80 for a human picker. (Bangkok Post File Photo).
A trained macaque picks coconuts from a tree in Chumphon province. An adult macaque can collect between 900 and 1,000 coconuts a day, compared with around 80 for a human picker. (Bangkok Post File Photo).

Major Western retailers have begun to pull Thai coconut products from their shelves amid allegations that the coconuts were picked by inhumanely treated monkeys.

The monkeys are snatched from the wild and trained to pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).

The animal rights group said pigtailed macaques in Thailand were treated like “coconut-picking machines”.

Peta said that monkeys were used by farms that supply two of Thailand’s best-known coconut milk brands, Aroy-D and Chaokoh, which are exported to many countries in Europe and the United States.

“Following Peta Asia’s investigation, more than 15,000 stores will no longer purchase these brands’ products, with the majority also no longer buying any coconut products sourced from Thailand monkey labour,” the group said on its website. 

In the UK, Waitrose, Ocado, Co-op and Boots have vowed to stop selling some coconut products from Thailand, the BBC reported.

A spokesperson for the giant retailer Tesco told the BBC: “Our own-brand coconut milk and coconut water does not use monkey labour in its production and we don’t sell any of the branded products identified by Peta.

“We don’t tolerate these practices and would remove any product from sale that is known to have used monkey labour during its production.”

The Morrisons chain said it had already removed products made with monkey-picked coconuts from its shelves. Sainsbury’s told the BBC: “We are actively reviewing our ranges and investigating this complex issue with our suppliers.”

Peta said it had found eight farms in Thailand where monkeys were forced to pick coconuts for export around the world.

Male monkeys are able to pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day, Peta says. It’s thought that a human can pick about 80.

“Other coconut-growing regions — including Brazil, Colombia and Hawaii — harvest coconuts using humane methods such as tractor-mounted hydraulic elevators, willing human tree-climbers, rope or platform systems, or ladders, or they plant dwarf coconut trees,” it said.

The group said it also discovered “monkey schools”, where the animals were trained to pick fruit, as well as ride bikes or play basketball for the entertainment of tourists.

“The animals at these facilities — many of whom are illegally captured as babies — displayed stereotypic behaviour indicative of extreme stress,” Peta said.

“Monkeys were chained to old tyres or confined to cages that were barely large enough for them to turn around in.”

“One monkey in a cage on a lorry bed was seen frantically shaking the cage bars in a futile attempt to escape, and a screaming monkey on a rope desperately tried to run away from a handler.”

In one case, the organisation was told that monkeys would have their canine teeth pulled out if they tried to bite handlers.

“Peta is calling on decent people never to support the use of monkey labour by shunning coconut products from Thailand.”


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