Major store drops brand of coconut milk over monkey labour allegations

Ash Cant
·4-min read

A major retailer has joined the long list of stores that have dropped a brand of coconut milk which allegedly uses monkey labour.

Last year, an undercover investigation was carried out by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) into the use of captive monkeys in Thailand’s coconut-picking industry.

The investigation found evidence of cruelty to monkeys on every farm, monkey training facilities and coconut picking contests that used monkey labour.

“When not being forced to pick coconuts or perform in circus-style shows for tourists, the animals were kept tethered, chained to old tires, or confined to cages barely larger than their bodies,” PETA said in a statement.

Target (US) has dropped Chaokoh coconut milk products, due to allegations of monkey labour used in farms in Thailand. Source: PETA/Facebook - Chaokoh UK
Target (US) has dropped Chaokoh coconut milk products, due to allegations of monkey labour used in farms in Thailand. Source: PETA/Facebook - Chaokoh UK

One of the companies that was singled out by PETA for alleged abuse was Chaokoh which, according to CNN, is one of the world’s leaders in producing coconut milk.

In the statement released on January 25, PETA announced Target has joined 26,000 other stores and major chains that have pledged to stop stocking coconut milk brands that use coconuts picked by monkeys.

“By dropping Chaokoh, Target is joining thousands of stores that refuse to profit from chained monkeys’ misery,” said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement.

“PETA exposés have confirmed that Thai coconut producers are exploiting monkeys and lying about it, so there’s no excuse for any grocery store to keep Chaokoh on its shelves.”

Target reportedly dropped Chaokoh products back in November 2020, following PETA's investigation. Source: Getty Images
Target reportedly dropped Chaokoh products back in November 2020, following PETA's investigation. Source: Getty Images

In a statement to CNN, Target said it decided to pull the products back in November last year.

USA Today had previously obtained a statement from Theppadungporn Coconut Co. Ltd. the company behind Chaokoh coconut milk.

Out of the 817 coconut plantations, 64 were randomly selected and audited by a third party and concluded the audited farms “did not find the use of monkey for coconut harvesting”, USA Today reported.

“In light of the disturbing reports in the news, we'd like to make it clear that both we and our associated parties do not support the use of monkey labour in the harvesting of coconuts,” Chaokoh UK tweeted last year.

In the accompanying statement, the company said all of its suppliers had signed a Memorandum of Understanding “to pledge zero monkey coconut picking in their farms”.

Speaking to 3AW on Wednesday, PETA spokesperson Emily Rice urged Australia consumers to be conscious when purchasing products.

“If consumers can steer away from Thai products, and particularly Chaokoh and PCC labelled products that are sold in Australia, then that will go a long way to sending the message that things need to change,” she said.

Investigation found monkeys were “chained” and “abused”

PETA Asia investigators went to eight farms where monkeys were used to pick coconuts in 2019, including the one used for Chaokoh.

At each of the sites, investigators found that monkeys were allegedly “abused and exploited”.

“The terrified young monkeys are forced to perform frustrating and difficult tasks, such as twisting heavy coconuts until they fall off the trees from a great height,” PETA said.

“Tethered by the neck with a metal collar, the monkeys are forced to climb up and down trees and collect coconuts.”

Images released by PETA show monkeys in chains and wearing metal collars.

PETA also said one investigator learned monkeys may have their canine teeth pulled out if they try to defend themselves.

The monkeys used at the farms were transported in cages which were “barely large enough for them to turn around in”, while other monkeys were left in the cages on the back of trucks.

“One monkey was seen frantically shaking the cage bars in a vain attempt to escape,” PETA said.

According to PETA's investigation, monkeys were allegedly used and exploited. Source: PETA
According to PETA's investigation, monkeys were allegedly used and exploited. Source: PETA

Some trainers allegedly had monkeys participate in circus-style shows to make more money.

“Reportedly, 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 said.

“Denied the freedom to move around, socialise 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.”

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