HelloFresh caves to PETA pressure, nixes coconut milk from Thailand over monkey slave labor accusations

Meal kit provider HelloFresh has caved to pressure from PETA and is dropping coconut milk from Thailand after the animal rights organization accused farms there of chaining and enslaving monkeys, forcing them to harvest coconuts under inhumane conditions.

(Video Credit: PETA Asia)

HelloFresh made the announcement on Monday in response to a PETA campaign and investigation into the use of pig-tailed monkeys to harvest coconuts in Thailand. The investigation by PETA began in 2019. The organization reported that macaques were chained and brutally beaten while spending hours picking coconuts.

The German-based company got hammered with over 100,000 emails from incensed customers who were angered by the use of monkey labor in sourcing the milk that is used in their meal kits.

“HelloFresh’s decision will help protect monkeys from being kidnapped, chained, and whipped in the coconut trade,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman declared, according to the Daily Mail.

“By cutting ties with Thai coconut suppliers, leaders like HelloFresh are helping PETA push the industry away from using and abusing monkeys, who belong in nature with their families,” Reiman asserted.

HelloFresh is not the only major retailer to dump products connected to monkey labor. Others include Walmart, Costco, Target, and Kroger. British brands such as Boots, Sainsbury, and Tesco have also announced bans on coconut milk. Carrie Symonds, who was the fiancee of former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, supports PETA’s efforts concerning the issue.

According to PETA’s investigation, there are 57 coconut harvesting operations in nine provinces of Thailand.

“HelloFresh strictly condemns any use of monkey labor in its supply chain, and we take a hard position of not procuring from suppliers or selling coconut products which have been found to use monkey labor,” HelloFresh announced in a press release. “We have written confirmation from all of our suppliers — in the U.S. and globally — that they do not engage in these practices.”

HelloFresh was using Aroy-D and Suree in its packages. Both are Thai-sourced coconut milk brands.

Video footage shows monkeys used on the coconut farms chained, surrounded by trash, dirt, and old car tires.

According to a worker who spoke with PETA, the average monkey spends approximately 10 years picking coconuts and then is kept for the rest of its life chained up. The animals are often reportedly injured while picking coconuts.

PETA asserts that the endangered monkeys are kidnapped and taken from their families to harvest coconuts. The Thai government is refuting PETA’s claims of widespread abuse of monkeys in coconut harvesting, according to The Guardian but the video evidence appears compelling.

The organization alleged that the monkeys were “abducted” as babies and “fitted with rigid metal collars and kept chained or tethered for extended periods.” They also charged the monkeys had their “teeth pulled out,” to protect their handlers.

(Video Credit: PETA)

“If they’re fangless, we can use them until they die,” a farmer reportedly told PETA Asia.

“Denied the freedom to move around, socialize with others, or do anything else that is important to them, these intelligent animals slowly lose their minds,” the organization claimed on its website.

Vincent Nijman, who is an anthropology professor and the head of the Oxford Wildlife Trade Research Group at Oxford Brookes University, claims the practice is confined to the southernmost part of Thailand. He told The Guardian that the practice is more common on smaller farms.

“The total volume that potentially could be picked by macaques is small, certainly in light of the total number of coconuts that are being picked. The vast majority of coconut and coconut products do not come from farms where pig-tailed macaques are employed,” Nijman remarked.

Thailand exported approximately 236,323 metric tonnes of coconut milk in 2021, according to The Guardian.

The announcement by HelloFresh comes as its profits and customer base sharply drop.

PETA Asia visited eight coconut farms in 2019. The group posted videos showing roped monkeys climbing trees to harvest coconuts. The animal rights group also claims it has videos showing trained monkeys kicking coconuts until they drop to the ground.

The activist group reopened its investigation into the practice in 2020 after claiming government officials were lax in addressing their findings.

“The coconut industry and Thai government are doing nothing but covering up and may, even, been quietly supporting monkey labor,” PETA accused.

PETA Asia investigators reportedly found that plantations are also hiding monkey usage from auditors.

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