I was recently speaking to a colleague in America who asked me ‘your coconuts are not harvested by monkeys are they?’ The question shocked me, but not as much as what I found when I took a look into the practice. I had to shine a light on this horrific practice.
Exposed: The abuse of monkeys in coconut water production
These days, we are all more aware of where the products we use come from. We want to make sure that the ingredients in the goods we buy come from sustainable, ethical sources. Coconut water, in particular, is becoming increasingly popular, due to its health and beauty benefits; and it is often seen as a vegan alternative to other products.
However, the coconut water industry is not always as ethical as it first appears, due to the use of monkeys for harvesting coconuts in Thailand.
The widespread problem of enforced monkey labour
The practice of using monkeys in coconut farming is widespread in Thailand, particularly in the southern provinces of Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon and Surat Thani. These provinces together produce over 60 per cent of the country’s total coconut output each year, meaning that the vast majority of products using coconut water which are produced in Thailand will have involved the use of monkeys in their production.
In recent years, this practice has come to the attention of animal welfare organisations including PETA, the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, and Wild Futures, which are raising global awareness about the issue, highlighting the unacceptable conditions in which the monkeys are obtained, trained and forced to work.
Monkeys are stolen and forced to harvest coconuts
Pig-tailed macaques are the breed of monkey most often used in coconut farming, due to the agility of their hands and feet. A pig-tailed macaque can pick between 600 and 1,600 coconuts per day, compared to the average human yield of just 80. As a result, the monkeys are viewed not as sentient beings with their own needs, but as working machines that don’t require payment.
The monkeys often work for up to nine hours a day, six days a week, tethered to their handlers or to wooden posts by a collar and chain around their necks. They climb tall trees repeatedly, and when all the coconuts from one tree have been picked, the handler pulls the chain. At this signal, the monkey climbs down and moves on to the next tree. The animals are sometimes so exhausted that they faint.
Tethered and often muzzled even when they are not working, the monkeys have little to no opportunity for socialisation or mental stimulation, causing them distress. They live in cages and are also sometimes trained to perform tricks for tourists, who often do not get to see the enforced labour the monkeys also have to endure. The facilities where they are kept are making profits from both activities.
Pig-tailed macaques are protected under the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act 1992. Under this law, they are not allowed to be taken from the wild, but can be bred in captivity. However, owners are getting around this law by breeding some monkeys in captivity, then showing the same licenses for monkeys that have been stolen from the wild. Often, pig-tailed macaques are taken from their mothers as babies by poachers – the mothers are shot dead, and the babies are forced to begin training for coconut harvesting.
What can you do to stand up against monkey abuse?
With coconut water becoming a much more popular product, it is now more important than ever that you check the coconuts have been ethically sourced and harvested by human hands. The first thing to check is the country of origin. If the brand of your choice, does originate from Thailand and do not proclaim to be humanely harvested, email and ask they clarify their practices and region where their coconuts come from. Only then can you be certain that no animals have been harmed in the production of the coconut water, and that it is a suitable product for vegans and everyone who cares about animal welfare.
If you would like more information on this topic, please contact us, and we will be happy to help. All of our products are made from ethically-sourced coconuts which have been harvested only by humans.
We also follow strict social audit practices with all factory workers, to ensure all aspects of our practice are safe and protect the rights of all our workers.