Costco has announced that it will no longer sell coconut products from Thailand because it relies on primate labor. According to Costco, “We have made it clear to the supplier that we do not support the use of monkeys for harvesting…”

The vast majority of coconuts sold across the world come from Southeast Asia, from countries like Thailand, where they are picked by abused primates. Agile and adept climbers, pig-tailed macaques are acquired as infants by trainers who find them in the wild, shoot their mothers to steal the baby primates, chain them by the neck and train them to climb trees and pick coconuts through the use of terrible brutality. They are trained into submission with whips and beatings. This includes forcing the monkeys to develop strong back leg muscles so that they can stand upright, an unnatural position for these animals, by hanging them by their neck for hours, even overnight, to develop strength.

Using monkeys to harvest coconuts is profitable, as these animals can pick up to ten times the number of coconuts that humans can per day. Monkeys are not only worked to the point of exhaustion — one trainer admits they faint during the course of the day — they are fed stimulants and caffeinated beverages to force them to work even harder.

They are forced to endure dangerous working conditions, including being forced to jump from tree to tree by grabbing unreliable palm fronds, which they are often frightened and reluctant to do because if the palms break, they could fall to their deaths. And they are deprived of socialization with their kind.

It is, in a word, slavery.

When we first found out about this several years ago, we began writing to companies that produce plant-based products to inquire about their coconuts. We were naive. Instead of asking them where they sourced their coconuts, we asked them if their suppliers used primate labor. Every company we reached out to, except those which just ignored our requests, claimed they were primate-labor free. And yet, since Southeast Asia supplies 85% of the world’s coconuts and virtually all the plantations in Thailand use primate labor, the casual assurances became dubious. Coconut industry spokesmen admit that such a claim is “hard to believe” since monkeys pick 99 percent of the coconuts harvested in Thailand. So we stopped buying coconut products sourced from anywhere where macaques exist.

Thankfully, Costco is not being naive either. The company stated that it will not accept vague assurances of compliance: “our supplier is in the process of visiting every one of its supplier farms…”

Click here to learn more about this issue, see a list of common ingredients that are coconut-derived, find out what you can do to help, and get links to primate-labor free coconut products.

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