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Monkeys In Thailand Are Treated Like Slaves To Harvest Coconuts

by Suzana Rose

May 22, 2018

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.

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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".

[caption id="attachment_4761" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Credit: dhedwards Credit: dhedwards[/caption]

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.

[caption id="attachment_4754" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Credit: Michael Freeman Credit: Michael Freeman[/caption]

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?

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+ Show Comments (22) - Hide Comments (22)
  • Anikka says:

    As long as they are giving them proper breaks and food ect then i have no issues besides it wouldn’t be smart to treat them poorly when you depens on them and it does lower risk for humans, monkeys and apes naturally climb anyway and are much stronger then us to do so. You could say the same for dogs with jobs or donkeys that move building materials in places that cars have no access like some parts if italy. Some jobs for animals is quite rewarding for them, dogs offen grow confident as they enjoy having a purpose just as most humans do.

  • Chris says:

    These monkeys are awesome. Hey at least they are eating them. Iโ€™m thinking if I ever move to Thailand Iโ€™m buying a couple to chill and pick coconuts and smoke a little ganja on my farm with me.

  • Brad says:

    of all the things to worry about or spend energy on, monkeys picking coconuts has got to be the most absurd. I’m blown away that someone could possibly spend a second thinking about “monkey Labor” and worse yet monkey compensation

  • Hugh Bishop says:

    A troll is someone with a differing opinion?

  • Hugh Bishop says:

    Slavery is strictly a human state. Monkeys are animals and can not be slaves.
    Calling this slavery demeans all human slaves present and past.
    Animal abuse is real. Some may have decent handlers and have fulfilling lives doing the job they were trained to do. Much like a bird hunting dog, retriever dog or herding dog.
    Is the herding dog a slave? No.

  • Laura says:

    Gotta love all these non-vegan apologists trying to give Suzi a hard time. What trolls.

  • Thank you for raising awareness for this issue. I was alerted by a friend. Because of your article, I contacted Vitacost to confirm that monkey labor wasn’t used for harvesting. They assured me that the coconuts from their products come from the Philippines and don’t use monkey labor.

  • King Kong says:

    I don’t see this as slavery or cruelty. These monkeys are employed for a task, given food, shelter and protection. Sure, they are commanded to climb trees, something that they do naturally anyway. I think it’s far crueler that our government over tax us and still there are homeless and hungry people in our world.

  • pulsethedates says:

    yo, how many coconut plantations have you been to?

  • Ance says:

    Thank you for sharing!
    Peace&Love&Light <3

  • nkolo says:

    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 ?

  • Jessica Burman Zinger says:

    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.

  • Senya says:

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

  • Update: Yes To Coconuts is on the ethical list!

  • TJ says:

    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 says:

      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” …

  • I just e-mailed them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thanks for sharing, Tina!

  • Huh, who knew… I had no idea.

  • Glad it was helpful, Jen. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s nice to know that Trader Joe’s is an ethical brand overall!

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