This week, retail chain Target announced that it will no longer carry coconut milk made by Chaokoh after an investigation revealed that the producer uses forced monkey labor to pick coconuts. Investigators on behalf of animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia visited four “monkey schools,” eight farms, and one coconut-picking competition in Thailand to discover that chained monkeys—who were likely illegally captured from the wild as babies—were forced to climb trees and pick coconuts for worldwide distribution. When the animals were not picking coconuts, they were tethered to old tires or kept in cages no larger than their bodies. According to PETA Asia, the animals displayed many signs of mental distress and some would have their canine teeth removed if they tried to defend themselves. 

After its initial investigation stirred a global outcry, PETA Asia conducted follow-up visits to coconut industry producers in Thailand to determine if they had changed their practices. Investigators found that producers were still using monkey labor but concealing it by hiding monkeys from investigators or hiring contractors to bring monkeys onto farms only during harvesting time.

Taking monkey labor off store shelves
Since PETA Asia’s investigation, 26,000 stores—including chains Wegmans, Costco, Food Lion, and Stop & Shop—have removed coconut milk brands linked to monkey labor from their shelves. Now, PETA is calling upon the remaining retailers, including Kroger, Albertsons, and Publix, to follow suit. “By dropping Chaokoh, Target is joining thousands of stores that refuse to profit from chained monkeys’ misery,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said. “PETA exposés have confirmed that Thai coconut producers are exploiting monkeys and lying about it, so there’s no excuse for any grocery store to keep Chaokoh on its shelves.” 

Coconut growers in other regions—including Brazil, Hawaii, and Colombia—typically use harvesting methods that do not involve monkey labor such as tractor-mounted hydraulic elevators, willing human tree-climbers, and rope or platform systems.

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