Major retailers across the U.S. are choosing to stock Thai-made coconut products even after an investigation alleged they were made with forced monkey labor.
Chaokoh is the primary brand accused of making coconut products with monkey labor and giant retailers like Kroger, Albertsons, Publix, Walmart, Target and Amazon are all carrying the items despite the caught-on-video evidence released by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
In 2019, the animal group started probing the abusive practice in the Southeast Asian country and spoke with numerous farm workers using monkey labor who confirmed their coconuts were being sold to Chaokoh, which sells coconut milk across the U.S.
PETA’s investigation found chained-up monkeys can pick around 400 coconuts a day and are then stuffed in small cages until their next shift.
Investigators with the animal group took video of the intelligent creatures inside their cages and one shows a primate frantically shaking the kennel in an apparent attempt to break out.
Another clip shows two monkeys caged in the back of a pickup truck getting soaked from pouring rain with no shelter.
PETA’s Corporate Responsibility Officer Kent Stein said the group has been imploring retailers to pull Chaokoh from their shelves and they’ve made a lot of progress. Costco decided to pull the brand this week, following behind Walgreens, Food Lion, Giant Food and Stop & Shop.
While Publix, Walmart and Target have at least opened a dialogue with PETA about Chaokoh, Kroger and Albertsons “has just ignored” the group’s requests.
“We recently had mailed coconuts to the homes of the CEOs of Kroger and Albertsons to get them… to ‘crack open a conversation’ with us,” Stein told The Post.
“And these of course were humanely sourced coconuts.”
But the requests have fallen on deaf ears, Stein said, making Kroger and Albertsons PETA’s “main targets right now.” Brands like Target, Publix and Walmart “are still selling it” and “need to reconsider their relationship” with the brand, Stein said.
Target and Publix didn’t return a request for comment on the practice. Walmart said in a statement they are “committed to sourcing responsibility and we expect that our suppliers will not tolerate animal abuse of any kind.”
“We will continue to engage with this supplier regarding our expectations, the severity of these allegations and that the supplier will take corrective action if needed,” a spokesperson said.
Amazon admits that it is “a seller of animal-derived products” and they recognize their responsibility to “uphold animal welfare within our supply chain.”
“We expect our suppliers to uphold the Five Freedoms framework for animal welfare, including freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, or disease; freedom to express normal behavior; and freedom from fear and distress. We expect our suppliers to comply with all applicable laws and to take a zero-tolerance approach to animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect,” Amazon said.
“Where we find products that do not meet our expectations, we take appropriate action. We encourage suppliers to continuously improve their animal welfare standards and practices, and to work towards recognized animal welfare certifications or industry guidelines that include welfare provisions.”
Chaokoh has emphatically denied using monkey labor in their coconut production. Their parent company Theppadungporn Coconut Co. Ltd released a 14-page audit titled “Monkey-Free Coconut Due Diligence Assessment” that claims 64 randomly selected farms out of 817 were not using monkeys for coconut harvesting, USA Today reported.
But Stein said the audit is “completely inadequate” because “visits to the farm were announced at least 11 days beforehand.”
“Basically they didn’t see monkeys were there and they just signed off and said monkeys aren’t being used there,” Stein explained.
“But again, you’re visiting farms that you announced 11 days before you’d be visiting. That doesn’t give us any kind of confirmation.”
The brand has also refused to release a full farm list to PETA, which has repeatedly invited them to produce evidence proving they don’t use monkey labor, Stein said.
Kroger said in a statement they have a “longstanding commitment to responsible business practices, including the humane treatment of animals. We have re-engaged our suppliers, as well as other stakeholders, on this issue to re-confirm they are also protecting animal welfare.”
Albertsons didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
PETA has issued a list of brands that don’t use monkey labor in their production of coconut products. They include Daiya, DREAM Coconut Milk and AYAM.