THE Commerce Ministry has instructed Thai diplomats to explain that the use of monkeys to pick coconuts is a way of life in this country and not torture of animals as boycott of Thai coconut products spread among British retailers, PostToday reported this afternoon (July 5, 2020).
Mr Bunyarit Kalayanamit, Commerce Ministry permanent secretary, said his ministry is accelerating the follow up of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) calling for a boycott of Thai coconut products for allegedly using inhumanely treated monkeys to pick the fruit.
He added that many government agencies are involved with this issue and not just the Commerce Ministry, which is responsible for the marketing side, with the research department having been told to find the facts.
However he stated that the use of monkeys to collect coconuts here does not mean being cruel to the animals because this is part of lifestyle of Thai villagers.
These monkeys are raised and trained to collect coconuts and they are not tortured as Peta has come out to say, he added.
The Commerce Ministry is fully ready and may invite ambassadors here to see how these coconuts are picked so that they get to know the way of life of Thai people and be ascertained these pets are not tortured and are considered trained.
Doing so would help many countries understand that this practice is not animal torture, he said.
This issue has to be discussed with relevant departments, especially the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, he said, adding that the Thai Animal Conservation Association has issued a statement that this is the way of life for raising animals, especially monkeys, in Thailand.
A BBC report published on Friday June 3 said that a number of supermarkets in UK have removed some coconut water and oil from their shelves after it emerged the products were made with fruit picked by monkeys.
The monkeys are snatched from the wild and trained to pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said.
The animal rights group said pigtailed macaques in Thailand were treated like “coconut-picking machines”.
In response Waitrose, Ocado, Co-op and Boots vowed to stop selling some goods.
Meanwhile, Morrisons said it had already removed products made with monkey-picked coconuts from its shelves.
In a statement, Waitrose said: “As part of our animal welfare policy, we have committed to never knowingly sell any products sourced from monkey labour.”
Co-op said: “As an ethical retailer, we do not permit the use of monkey labour to source ingredients for our products.”
In a tweet earlier on Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds, a conservationist, called on all supermarkets to boycott the products.
Sainsbury’s subsequently told the BBC: “We are actively reviewing our ranges and investigating this complex issue with our suppliers.”
Asda said: “We expect our suppliers to uphold the highest production standards at all times and we will not tolerate any forms of animal abuse in our supply chain.” It pledged to remove certain brands from its shelves until it has investigated the allegations of cruelty.
Ms Symonds later took to Twitter again to urge Tesco to make a similar pledge: “Come on @Tesco! Over to you! Please stop selling these products too,” she wrote.
A Tesco spokesperson told the BBC: “Our own-brand coconut milk and coconut water does not use monkey labour in its production and we don’t sell any of the branded products identified by Peta.
“We don’t tolerate these practices and would remove any product from sale that is known to have used monkey labour during its production.”
Top: A monkey getting ready to collect coconuts. Thai headline says, “Monkey picking coconuts is the lifestyle of villagers.” Photo: PostToday