Monkeys In Thailand Are Treated Like Slaves To Harvest Coconuts

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If you love coconut oil, you might want to know about the sketchy ethics going on behind the scenes. In Thailand, monkeys have been trained to harvest coconuts for decades, which raises serious concerns. Learning about this made me more conscious of the coconut oil companies I’m supporting, because let’s be real: we’re dealing with animal slavery.

The pigtailed macaques are trained beginning at a young age and forced to learn how to climb up the tall coconut trees and break the heavy coconuts off. They’re chained by the neck during the whole process. I found this video which shows us a bit of the training involved:

At 1:10, you can see the young monkey struggling and being forced into training.

At 3:42, we see the trained monkey handing the trainer his shoes, bringing the dynamic between the two closer to a master and slave relationship.

When researching this topic, I found it rather odd that so many publications take this practice so lightly by referring to it as “whimsical” and “funny”.

Credit: dhedwards
Credit: dhedwards

Although we don’t see any horrific forms of abuse in this short video, we can guess that the monkeys aren’t always treated well. What’s their reward? Are they working for no compensation? They’re doing all the hard labor in place of their trainers, who get paid in cash for the harvests, yet they’re denied even the coconuts that they pick.

In addition to this, these trained monkeys are sold for cash in the local market. You can see a picture of this here, but be warned that it shows a distressed monkey.

We know that these monkeys are chained at all times, trained for hard labor, caged, and sold. If these monkeys were humans, we would be all be quick to call it slavery.

We also know that monkeys don’t necessarily have to be used in coconut farms. Adults can and do often peform this task, either by climbing the trees themselves or using long sticks.

Credit: Michael Freeman
Credit: Michael Freeman

By any standards, the practice of using monkeys on coconut farms is very close to animal abuse. So what can we do about it?

1. Choose your coconut products wisely.

Make sure to buy coconut oil or products from companies that don’t use pigtailed macaques on their coconut farms. Thankfully, Animal Place compiled a list of approved companies which are also fair-trade. This means that only adults who are compensated fairly work on the farms. Some approved companies include Nutiva, Coconut Bliss, and Trader Joe’s among many.

2. Be wary of the country of origin.

Look at the origin of your coconut products. It’s believed that Thailand very largely uses monkeys to harvest coconuts.

3. Contact companies.

Another thing you can do is write to coconut oil companies yourself. Ask them about their coconut farms and let it be known that you won’t support this harvesting practice.

I hope you’ll all join me in making sure that our coconut oil and coconut-derived products are not only fair-trade, but don’t engage in this type of harvest. Did you know about this practice?

  • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi | Cruelty-Free Kitty

    Glad it was helpful, Jen. :) It’s nice to know that Trader Joe’s is an ethical brand overall!

  • http://www.kissandmakeupsbeautyblog.com/ Kiss & Make-up

    Huh, who knew… I had no idea.

  • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi | Cruelty-Free Kitty

    Thanks Helen. :)

  • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi | Cruelty-Free Kitty

    Thanks for sharing, Tina!

  • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi | Cruelty-Free Kitty

    I just e-mailed them. :)

  • TJ

    you cut out the part when the man says he loves these monkeys like his children, people of the west so quick to judge…look at the injustice in your own backyard, slaughterhouses, dogs that are left at home alone with nothing to do for hours. These monkeys have leashes on them not chains and their minds are stimulated by learning new things, thats more than you can say about most dog owners. Sure its not the greatest situation but this man seems to be pretty kind to the monkeys and in exchange he provides them with food and shelter. Comparing this to slavery is absurd…

    • truthon

      You are reacting to “one man.” Within any group there are generally a few persons who exhibit kindness in their actions towards others. However, the trade in living Beings or murdered Beings does not bespeak of kindness or high ethics. The last sentence: “Not everyone who lives with a monkey is considerate as Charlie” …

  • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi | Cruelty-Free Kitty

    Update: Yes To Coconuts is on the ethical list!

  • Senya

    What about horses, chickens, cows, K9 dogs, etc. Same deal, right?

    • Ben Pottinger

      Pretty much. Is it slavery for a horse or mule?

  • Jessica Burman Zinger

    They work in tourist attractions, not farms so unless you are in one of these countries accepting a coconut from a monkey, you have nothing to worry about. Large scale farms do not use monkeys.

  • nkolo

    and the dogs at border control at airports stopping millions worth of drugs from entering the country , how much do they get from western border patrol at the airport ? biscuit bone ..is that not slavery as well ?