Monkey in cage 2

Source: Peta

Peta in Asia has been investigating the use of monkey slave labour in Thailand’s coconut trade for years

The Co-op has switched suppliers for its own-label coconut milk after an investigation found monkeys were being used in Thailand’s coconut industry.

An undercover exposé by animal rights organisation Peta in Asia found some farms in Thailand reportedly used monkeys to harvest coconuts.

The exploited animals were “forced to spend long hours climbing tall trees and picking heavy coconuts”, Peta said, adding the monkeys were kept chained and in cages with limited access to food and water.

The species exploited by the coconut trade in Thailand are threatened or endangered, according to the animal welfare group.

Peta said the Co-op had agreed not to source coconut milk from Thailand after learning about its investigation.

The convenience retailer’s own-brand coconut milk is now sourced from Sri Lanka.

“As a convenience retailer, we continually review our ranges to ensure we’re providing the best quality products for our member owners and customers and have been rolling out Co-op’s first Sri Lankan own-brand coconut milk since March,” a Co-op spokeswoman said.

An investigation across Co-op’s own-brand supply chains did not identify monkey labour.

However, Peta claims to have found a link between forced monkey labour and Suree, the brand that used to produce canned coconut milk for the British grocer.

The Grocer has reached out to Suree as well as the Thai Food Processors’ Association.

“Co-op is living up to its co-operative namesake by taking this compassionate step to avoid cruelly obtained coconut milk, and we urge the Thai government to put an end to the exploitative practice of forcing captive monkeys to harvest coconuts,” said Peta senior corporate projects manager Carys Bennett.

Peta has also asked the Co-op to extend this policy to include branded Thai coconut milk products and urged consumers to “avoid buying any coconut products sourced from Thailand due to the rampant abuse involved in their production”.

The Co-op is working with the BRC in its efforts to support the Thai government on the development of the Monkey Free Plus certification.

Meal kit provider HelloFresh also dropped its Thai coconut milk products last year over monkey slave labour concerns.

“Peta is calling on all retailers to stop selling any Thai coconut milk products until monkeys are no longer used and abused for profit,” Bennett added.