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“Come and see” – Ministry invites diplomats to see coconut-picking monkeys in action



PHOTO: Atlas Obscura
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The monkeys, and the Thai government, are hitting back at accusations macaque monkeys are being exploited, even abused, and forced to pick coconuts for commercial farmers. Some larger western retailers say they’re going to pull Thai coconut products off their shelves after being lobbied by animal rights activist that the coconuts were picked by abused and over-worked macaque monkeys.

The Thai Commerce Ministry, coconut farmers and the “monkey school” trainers are dismissing reports, and a dramatic video from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal), that the coconut-picking monkeys are maltreated. So they’re organising a tour for foreign diplomats and the media to see the monkeys at work and decide for themselves.

The permanent secretary for commerce, responding to the reports, says the monkey owners don’t abuse or exploit the animals which have been “humanely trained” to pick coconuts. He has instructed attaches in foreign Thai embassies to provide an explanation to retailers in other countries who have expressed concerns and even instigated boycotts.

“The ministry is ready to invite foreign diplomats to visit coconut plantations and see how the monkeys pick coconuts so they will realise this is not animal cruelty.”

The Bangkok Post reports that Pramual Pongthawaradej, a Demo­crat Party MP for Prachuap Khiri Khan province, the Chair of a House subcommittee tackling falling coconut prices, says they’ve approached owners of coconut milk plants to justify their practices to PETA. They’ve also asked the Department of Agriculture to provide details regarding the use of monkeys to pick coconuts.

A video from Touronthai shows an operating monkey-school posted 4 years ago…

But Somjai Saekow, an owner of a monkey school which trains macaques in Surat Thani, says… “the practice of capturing monkeys from the wild to pick coconuts ceased a long time ago”.

“Currently, monkeys are bred and raised before being trained. They are not forced to pick 1,000 coconuts from trees everyday, and they don’t work every day.

“Coconut-picking monkeys are mostly males and their abilities vary. The owner of the monkey receives 2 baht per a coconut picked.”

“Foreigners may not understand our livelihood. Also, humans are not built to climb up a coconut tree to pick fruit. They will be at risk, compared to monkeys which have the natural ability to do so.”

An owner of monkeys in Surat Thani, denied the claims of poor treatment or abuse of the coconut-picking monkeys.

“There is no cruelty. Actually, they are looked after well. They are fed well with rice, milk, and fruit three times a day. They are treated like family members.”

PETA claims pigtailed macaques in Thailand were treated like “coconut-picking machines”.

“Following PETA’s investigation, more than 15,000 stores will no longer purchase these brands’ products, with the majority also no longer buying any coconut products sourced from Thailand monkey labour.”

PETA said it had found 8 farms around Thailand where monkeys had been forced to pick coconuts for commercial export.

“Male monkeys are able to pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day.”

“Other coconut-growing regions, including Brazil, Colombia and Hawaii, harvest coconuts using humane methods such as tractor-mounted hydraulic elevators, willing human tree-climbers, rope or platform systems, or ladders, or they plant dwarf coconut trees.”

“PETA went further by calling on “decent people never to support the use of monkey labour by shunning coconut products from Thailand”.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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  1. Beverley & Tony weston

    Monday, July 6, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    We are appalled and so sad these poor poor monkeys, these so called humans are cruel, evil and barbaric, eye for an eye, do the same treatment to the so called humans what they do to the monkeys, ANIMAL LIVES MATTER’

  2. Toby Andrews

    Monday, July 6, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    The will see nothing bad unless they arrive unannounced.

  3. Gerry

    Monday, July 6, 2020 at 8:28 pm

    Shall this country stop grand national or horse racing poor poor horses get hit by crop to keep running.Monkey is their nature to climbing they love to do that. but the horses had been force and hit to running.

    • Alex

      Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 7:07 pm

      Monkeys are being forced, or didn’t you get the memo. Being forced lies not in their nature!

  4. Gerry

    Monday, July 6, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    shall this country stop grand national.because poor horses been force to racing and hit by the crop to keep running.

  5. Garry

    Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    There are a lot of things that they still don’t know
    Annnnnnd I’m sure it’s better to not know “them”

  6. Garry

    Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    Trust me
    I done it before

  7. Judianna

    Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    Any animal that is used or made to behave doing something unnaturally is abuse. Their freedom has been taken away from them. Their spirits are broken when they are forced to perform…. that is cruelty.
    Companies that have pulled away from Thailand because of this cruelty have shown their morals and we appreciate them stepping up. Animal abuse, exploitation, cruelty around the world is being called out and those who stand up against it, move away from it, and practice compassion in their business, in their Lifestyles, in the consumer choices will always be displaying what it truly means to be a human being. Respect All Life.

  8. Daniel

    Wednesday, July 8, 2020 at 1:32 am

    For the monkies it’s a game. They have fun doing it. Just like custom dogs have fun searching for drugs or horses racing. Animals don’t think like humans, in most cases for them everything is fun.

    If course there are abuses that need to be dealt with but let’s not generalize

    • Alex

      Sunday, July 12, 2020 at 11:14 am

      Agree, saw coconut monkey 1 time, it had been sit on track with coconuts, no cage, monkey seemed fine, not abused or something. So maybe some people cruel to them, but not all.

  9. Toby Andrews

    Wednesday, July 8, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    Ah but what about the poor farmers caught using tortured monkeys and suffering a massive drop in income, they will have to sell their 4x4s, and run up the trees themselves.


  10. RametinNonta

    Wednesday, July 8, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    It’s good to see a monkey learn a trade and work for a living like the rest of us. Wild monkeys are not assured veterinary care or regular nutrition as these working monkeys are. They are no more exploited that a human office worker which is a far more alien environment to humans than tree climbing to a monkey. If you know anything about monkeys, you know you can’t FORCE them to do anything; they are like cats in that they work for rewards. There are far too many monkeys in Thailand that are layabouts looking for a free handout from tourists.

  11. yesq

    Thursday, July 9, 2020 at 10:15 am

    Yes its abuse. Sometimes for hobby or fun its ok but to pick a thousand coconuts per day is pure evil

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