BUFFALO, N.Y. — The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has criticized grocery store chain Wegmans and several other chains for allegedly selling coconut milk made from fruit harvested by abused monkeys.
According to PETA, monkeys are "forced to climb trees to pick coconuts" for coconut milk made by the brand Chaokoh. The company says that Wegmans is one of the few grocery store chains still selling the product.
In an open letter to Wegmans CEO Colleen Wegman, PETA claimed that an investigation by the organization found that coconut growers in the industry were harvesting fruit with monkeys that were "confined for life, sometimes with their teeth removed, always on chains, and often driven insane from being deprived of everything that's natural and important to them."
PETA also added that it is delivering "humanely obtained: coconuts to Wegmans this week.
In response, Wegmans said that PETA had sent letters to several other retailers regarding the coconut milk, and added that the store is "actively investigating the matter."
In July, the Thailand-based maker of Chaokoh coconut milk, Theppadungporn Coconut Co. Ltd, told Reuters that it had audited more than 100 of its coconut plantations by a third party and that none were found to use monkeys in the harvesting process.
Theppadungporn added that following PETA's reports of forced monkey labor, sales fell between 20% to 30% from last year.
According to Reuters, PETA has rejected the Thai government's claims that the use of monkeys in harvesting coconuts was almost "non-existent."
See the letter from PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk to Wegmans CEO Colleen Wegman below.
Dear Ms. Wegman,
Greetings from PETA. I hope this message finds you well. We've sent you these coconuts in the hope of cracking open some dialog about reconsidering your business relationship with Chaokoh, a brand sold by your company and implicated in a recent PETA Asia exposé of Thailand's coconut industry. This investigation revealed that Chaokoh is complicit in an industry that's forcing monkeys—confined for life, sometimes with their teeth removed, always on chains, and often driven insane from being deprived of everything that's natural and important to them—to collect coconuts.
It seems that monkeys used in the coconut industry are illegally captured in their natural habitat as babies. Then, they endure abusive training. Investigators visited "monkey schools," which exploit the animals to entertain visitors through tricks such as riding bicycles and shooting basketballs. Coercion is used to train them to pick coconuts, as they wouldn't voluntarily do it.
The monkeys are isolated from their peers as they spend their lives chained, transported in cages, and forced to climb trees in order to collect coconuts. The captive animals display stereotypic types of behavior, such as circling endlessly. Similar abuse was found at all 13 randomly selected locations.
Chaokoh produces coconuts for coconut milk that you sell. Its refusal to take a position against cruelty to animals is not sitting well with ethical consumers, and your own current position stands in contrast to that of the more than 25,000 other stores that have pledged not to purchase products from any company that depends on forced monkey labor.
We'd love to work together to get coconut products involving such labor off your shelves. May we please hear from you?
Ingrid E. Newkirk
This story was originally published by Paul Ross on WKBW in Buffalo.