Coconut has been touted as a superfood the last few years. But now something even more alarming than its sky-high saturated fat content has come to light — some companies may be using forced monkey labor to pick the coconuts.
“PETA Asia’s investigators found cruelty to monkeys on every farm, at every monkey-training facility, and in every coconut-picking contest that used monkey labor,” PETA claimed in a press release. “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.”
A video on the PETA site shows monkeys kept in cages or on barren patches of dirt when they’re not being forced to harvest coconuts. It describes their abduction from nature, where they live in large social groups, and how they often go insane from being deprived of companionship with fellow monkeys. Sometimes farmers remove their teeth so the monkeys give them less trouble. The video ends with the message, “If you see a product made with Thai coconuts such as coconut milk, oil or yogurt please leave it on the shelf to avoid supporting this life of misery.”
Chaokoh brand coconut milk, manufactured by Thailand-based Theppadungporn Coconut Co., has especially come under fire. American retailers are listening. Costco, Walgreens, Stop & Shop, Food Lion and Giant Food have all dropped the brand due to animal abuse claims.
Theppadungporn denies the allegation. “Following the recent news about the use of ‘monkey labor’ in Thailand’s coconut industry, Chaokoh, one of the world’s leaders in coconut milk production, reassures that we do not engage the use of monkey labor in our coconut plantations,” the company said in a statement.
Other companies are also feeling the repercussions. Portland-based health food brand Edward & Sons sent out a letter to retailers and consumers claiming that not all coconuts are harvested by monkeys. “Coconuts are picked from tall trees by human workers using sharp saws or sickles attached to very long poles,” the letter read. “All work to plant, care for, harvest and process Edward & Sons food products is performed by human professionals, who are fairly paid for their labor.”
Image via Zibik