Target is the latest on the list of stores that are refusing to stock specific coconut-based products due to evidence of forced labor used in their production. Unlike typical forced labor claims, the victims of this trade are not humans, but monkeys. So why are they using these monkeys for forced labor, and what is being done about it?
Why monkeys are used to pick coconuts
The monkeys that are used for this purpose are the pigtailed macaques. The reason they do this is for efficiency and profit. A male macaque can harvest as many as 1600 coconuts a day, while a female can harvest as many as 600, while humans can generally only harvest about 80. These monkeys are also more adapted for climbing trees, which can be a dangerous job for humans.
In fact, it gets far worse than this. PETA in Asia launched an investigation into this trade in Thailand and claimed on their website that:
"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. An investigator learned that if monkeys try to defend themselves, their canine teeth may be pulled.
To earn more money off these animals, some trainers also force them to participate in circus-style shows in which they entertain paying visitors by riding bicycles, shooting basketballs, and performing other confusing and demeaning tricks.
An investigator saw monkeys being transported in cramped cages that were barely large enough for them to turn around in and others left in locked cages in the back of a pickup truck, with no shelter from the driving rain. One monkey was seen frantically shaking the cage bars in a vain attempt to escape.
Tethered by the neck with a metal collar, the monkeys are forced to climb up and down trees and collect coconuts."
There is also a video on the website, but it is gruesome to watch. I will not link it here, but if you are interested, it can be found on the PETA website.
Companies refusing to sell cruelty
While companies tend to be choosey when it comes to what forms of cruelty they will endorse, this seems to have crossed a line with many. Due to the outcry, stores like Target, Costco, Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Giant Food, Wegmans, Super King Markets, and Cost Plus World Market are refusing to sell the Chaokoh brand of coconut milk. This is due to their involvement in the Thailand coconut trade.
While this practice has been going on for 400 years, it is about time that it stopped. Macaques are sentient beings that can feel pain and are also considered to be extremely intelligent. This should itself show that the abuse and exploitation of these animals for financial gain is wrong and I am glad more companies are starting to get on board.
Find out more by watching the video below. Warning: The segment shows animal cruelty and imprisonment.