21 May 2024

The Thai Animals Protection Association has urged the Commerce and Agriculture ministries to issue a clarification to British retailers quickly about the use of pigtailed macaques in the harvesting of coconuts in Thailand.

Mr. Roger Lohanan, secretary-general of the association, made the call after four British retailers pledged to stop offering coconut products that use monkey labour in their production.

According to a BBC report on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s conservationist fiancée, Carrie Symonds, called on all other supermarkets to stop selling the products, which include certain brands of coconut water and coconut milk.
“I am glad Waitrose, Co-op, Boots & Ocado have vowed not to sell products that use monkey labour, while Morrisons has already removed them from its stores,” Symonds tweeted.

Mr. Lohanan said that the use of animal labour, such as macaque monkeys to pick up coconuts, is a separate issue from cruelty to animals, pointing out that farmers have been using the labour of cattle and elephants for generations, just as farmers in the West have used horses and dogs in agriculture.
Animal rights protection groups should evaluate how the animals are treated and trained, before declaring it whether cruelty is involved, said Mr. Lohanan, adding that monkeys, cattle and elephants are treated like part of the family.

Accusing Thai people of being cruel to the monkeys for using them to pick coconuts is unfair, he said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an American animal rights group, however, said it had found eight farms in Thailand where monkeys are forced to pick coconuts for export. Male monkeys are able to pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day while a human can pick about 80, said PETA.

The group claims that monkeys are captured as babies and trained, often being chained to old car tires or confined in cages.

The Walmart-owned ASDA supermarket chain said it was removing two specific brands from sale, while it investigates the report with its suppliers.

“We expect our suppliers to uphold the highest production standards at all times and we will not tolerate any form of animal abuse in our supply chain,” it said in a statement.