Whether or not coconuts picked by monkeys constitute animal abuse is back in the headlines.
HelloFresh, a meal kit company based in Berlin with a significant presence in the U.S., told Axios it would stop sourcing coconut milk from Thailand, the outlet reported Monday. The non-profit advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which is known for out-of-the-box advertising including naked ad campaigns advocating for animal rights, has been campaigning to raise awareness about what it has called “rampant monkey abuse.”
PETA said in a press release it and its supporters have sent “nearly 100,000 e-mails,” and that it campaigned for months to get HelloFresh to stop obtaining coconut milk in the country.
“We do not tolerate any form of animal abuse in our supply chain,” HelloFresh told the outlet. “Out of an abundance of caution we will not be placing orders for coconut milk from Thailand,” HelloFresh added.
Monkeys, particularly pigtailed macaques, have been picking coconuts in Thailand for some 400 years, NPR reported in 2015. Monkeys can pick coconuts more quickly than humans can, the outlet added.
PETA claimed in photos, videos, and text, that some monkeys are taken from the wild and from their families, forced to live in unpleasant conditions, and face maltreatment from farmers.
Still, about 80% of the market for coconut milk in the U.S. comes from Thailand, Axios reported, citing data it obtained from the Office of Agricultural Affairs at the Royal Thai Embassy.
“It would be difficult to find a coconut product made in Thailand that wasn’t picked by a monkey,” Arjen Schroevers, who runs a monkey training school in Thailand called The First Monkey School, told NPR in 2015.
Schroevers criticized PETA’s conclusions in a 2020 post on the school’s website, saying that PETA is a “militant vegan organization” that fights harder for media attention than animal rights and that some of their claims, such as that it’s cruel to transport monkeys in cages, were not accurate.
“That is the safest and easiest way to transport a monkey,” he wrote.
HelloFresh had over 3 million active customers in the U.S. as of the fourth quarter of 2022, per its most recently reported financial results.