The Rise of Co­conut Prod­ucts and Pri­mate Ex­ploita­tion

Is your co­conut wa­ter re­ally ve­gan?

Raise Vegan - - Contents - By Aoife Sheri­dan

You go to the store, pick up some co­conut wa­ter or co­conut milk and check the la­bel for all the usual things: is it def­i­nitely ve­gan? Have they snuck any dairy or an­i­mal fats in there? Sat­is­fied with your choice, you pur­chase it and leave the store without a sec­ond thought. How­ever, what the la­bel doesn’t tell you is that many com­pa­nies source their co­conuts from spe­cific re­gions of the world where pig- tailed macaques are taken from the wild and in­ten­tion­ally bred and trained - of­ten us­ing cruel, pun­ish­ing tac­tics - to har­vest their co­conuts.

Thai­land is one of the many coun­tries that uses mon­keys to har­vest co­conuts and has been do­ing so for nearly 400 years. But why mon­keys? Well, it turns out that a male macaque can col­lect an av­er­age of 1,600 co­conuts a day, and a fe­male, 600. Hu­mans on the other hand, can only col­lect around 80. They also claim that it is safer for a mon­key to pick the fruit as the trees can be up to 80 feet tall. The mon­keys are al­ways teth­ered to a han­dler and are not al­lowed to eat any of the co­conuts they col­lect. An­i­mal Place, a sanc­tu­ary for farmed an­i­mals in Cal­i­for­nia, has com­piled a list of co­conut com­pa­nies that they have asked to spec­ify from where they source their co­conuts, but most of them had never been to the co­conut plan­ta­tions and could not con­firm. Mon­key train­ers in Thai­land have spo­ken up and said that it is more than likely that all of the com­pa­nies con­tacted by An­i­mal Place are us­ing co­conuts that were picked by mon­keys.

Ar­jen Schroev­ers runs the Mon­key Train­ing School in Su­rat Thani, Thai­land. It is a Bud­dhist- in­spired school founded 50 years ago for the sole pur­pose of teach­ing mon­keys how to pick co­conuts. The school claims to not use force or vi­o­lence when it comes to train­ing the mon­keys. Schroev­ers in­sists that the al­le­ga­tions of mis­treat­ment are wrong and the ma­jor­ity of mon­keys on co­conut farms are treated very well.

In an email in­ter­view with NPR’s The Salt, Schroev­ers stated, “It is al­ways re­laxed, no shout­ing, no pun­ish­ing. Every few trees the mon­key hugs his owner, who then checks the mon­key for red ants - who live in the trees - and the mon­key gets a mas­sage. Out­side work­ing hours, the mon­keys are kept as pets - only for the fam­ily own­ers, to strangers they are not friendly.”

When ques­tioned about the mon­keys be­ing teth­ered, Schroev­ers said it served a va­ri­ety of pur­poses, but most im­por­tantly, it pre­vents them from es­cap­ing. Of course, it is a cul­tural dif­fer­ence, and can be com­pared to many sim­i­lar prac­tices around the world, such as sheep­dogs herd­ing live­stock, dogs sniff­ing for con­tra­band in air­ports and oxen plough­ing fields.

No mat­ter how you try to spin it, these are still wild an­i­mals; many of whom have been cap­tured from their nat­u­ral habi­tats and forced into in­den­tured servi­tude. Hope­fully, the claims of abuse are in­valid; but where do you draw the line?

Photo: omers

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