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Thai coconut farmers under fire for monkey business

Farmers deny inhumane treatment of monkeys used to pick coconuts for major producers

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Updated: July 07, 2020 02:02 AM GMT
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Thai coconut farmers under fire for monkey business

Farmers say agile monkeys are much more efficient than humans at picking coconuts. (Photo:

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If you buy coconut milk from Thailand, you may be unknowingly contributing to animal abuse, a leading animal rights group says.

The United States-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says its investigators have found that several major coconut milk producers in Thailand employ monkeys to pick coconuts while treating the animals inhumanely. 

“Many monkeys are illegally abducted from their families and homes when they’re just babies. They’re fitted with rigid metal collars and kept chained or tethered for extended periods,” PETA explains on its website.

“Denied the freedom to move around, socialize with others, or do anything else that is important to them, these intelligent animals slowly lose their minds. Driven to desperation, they pace and circle endlessly on the barren, trash-strewn patches of dirt where they’re chained.”

Macaques are widely used around Thailand to pick coconuts from towering palm trees. The animals, tethered by the neck with a metal collar attached to a chain or rope, are sent up trees where they twist ripe coconuts until the fruits fall off.

PETA says its investigators found eight Thai farms where monkeys were forced to pick coconuts for export worldwide. The animals are forced to pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day.

The repetitive task performed endlessly day after day is a form of animal abuse. In addition, their handlers may defang some monkeys to stop them from biting.

Many macaques used at coconut farms were found to be kept in cramped cages exposed to the elements. “One monkey was seen frantically shaking the cage bars in a vain attempt to escape,” PETA explains.

The rights group says it is “calling on decent people never to support the use of monkey labor by shunning coconut products from Thailand.”

In response, several major foreign retailers, such as Waitrose, Ocado, Co-op and Boots in the United Kingdom, have already said they will stop selling coconut milk produced by Thai companies that have been revealed to employ monkeys.

PETA says more than 15,000 stores abroad have pledged not to buy coconut products from Thai companies named in its report, “with the majority also no longer buying any coconut products sourced from Thailand monkey labor.”

Some Thai coconut growers have denied abusing the monkeys kept at their farms, while others said they had no choice but to employ the agile primates as people are far less adept at picking coconuts from great heights.

PETA’s investigators misconstrue the nature of coconut farms in Thailand, said Than Rittiphan, a coconut grower, in a comment on social media.

“They don’t live close to those monkeys,” he said. “They’ve never owned a coconut farm like me. They’ve got no idea how labor-intensive [picking coconuts] could be to humans. They’ve absolutely got no idea!”

Other coconut growers said that monkey handlers employed for picking coconuts are underprivileged locals who need the animals to put food on the table.

“Without their monkeys these people would have no jobs,” one commented on social media.   

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