HelloFresh is under fire as PETA claims a new investigation shows suppliers of the meal kit provider using chained monkeys to pick coconuts in Thailand.
After an eight-month probe, PETA Asia says investigators discovered baby monkeys were being kidnapped, chained and forced to spend long hours climbing trees and picking heavy coconuts.
The animal rights group also claim that HelloFresh has refused "to do the right thing" by moving its coconut supply chain out of Thailand despite having known about the use of monkey labour in the country for "years".
"PETA is calling on everyone – including HelloFresh – to stop buying coconut milk sourced from Thailand until monkeys are no longer used and abused for profit," PETA campaigns advisor Mimi Bekhechi said. "It's unconscionable for companies like HelloFresh to continue to support an industry in which chained monkeys are forced to work."
Monkeys 'hidden in supply chains'
The probe that covered the months of December 2021 to July 2022 is PETA's third investigation into Thailand's coconut industry.
PETA says the Thai government and companies that make coconut products have claimed monkeys were no longer being used following international criticism after the first two investigations brought the issue to light. The animal rights group, however, confirmed that the "rampant abuse" of monkeys is still going unchecked and Thai coconut product manufacturers are now deliberately hiding monkey labour in their supply chains.
Investigators visited 57 operations across nine Thai provinces during the probe, and documented that the animals were being abused and exploited in each one.
Disturbing claims of abuse
According to PETA, the owner of one "monkey school" they were investigating, admitted to buying from farmers who use nets to kidnap wild infant monkeys from their homes – a practice they claim is illegal. The group says a trainer was documented striking a screaming monkey, dangling him by the neck, and whipping him with the tether.
The trained monkeys, which are later sold to coconut pickers, are frequently bitten by ants and stung by hornets. PETA added that according to an employee, monkeys sometimes incur broken bones from falling out of trees or from being yanked down.
Investigators also say a chained female monkey that was reportedly being used for breeding was being kept away from other monkeys, without food and water nearby, and had little access to shade at another facility. Brokers of Suree and Aroy-D, which PETA claims are two of HelloFresh's coconut milk suppliers, admitted both brands' supply chains use monkey labour, according to the advocacy group.
They added that a supplier to Suree kept monkeys chained on flooded land or rubbish-strewn patches of dirt with almost no protection from the elements, while a worker in Suree's supply chain told PETA investigators that the monkeys would be forced to pick coconuts for more than a decade before being "retired" – which meant being chained up for the rest of their lives.
In other cases, the monkeys may be abandoned in the forest, even though they lack the skills needed to survive on their own after being bred in captivity or kidnapped as juveniles, the advocacy group added.
The recent findings have prompted PETA to urge HelloFresh subscribers to "cancel their membership until the company moves its sourcing outside of Thailand and not to buy any coconut milk products manufactured in the country due to the rampant abuse."
In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, HelloFresh has denied sourcing coconut products from suppliers that put monkeys to labour.
"HelloFresh strictly condemns any use of monkey labor in its supply chain and we take a hard position of not procuring from suppliers or selling coconut products which have been found to use monkey labour," a HelloFresh spokesperson told Yahoo News. "We have written confirmation from all of our suppliers globally that they do not engage in these practices."
"As an industry-leading food solutions group and the world's leading meal kit provider, we have implemented the highest standards in our supply chain and go above and beyond official regulations in our mission to guarantee the safety and sustainability of our product," the spokesperson added. "We select our suppliers with care, ensuring that they deliver the best quality and freshest ingredients, while adhering to the same high standards that we hold ourselves accountable to."
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