Thailand says coconut-picking monkeys are mostly a tourist attraction and are not harmed. Image by EPA PHOTO

Environment

Thailand denies coconut monkeys abused

2020-07-08 18:16:50

Thailand’s coconut-picking monkeys, long a popular tourist attraction, have become a sensitive trade issue as British activists claim the animals are abused and push for a boycott of the nation’s coconut products.

Thailand has rejected British animal activists’ claims its popular coconut-picking monkeys are treated cruelly.

Thai Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit has rejected the allegations made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and declared coconut harvesting by monkeys is not a major part of the industry. He says the animals are mostly a tourist attraction and are not harmed.

Jurin said on Monday that PETA’s campaign was affecting sales in Britain as well as other European countries.

Thailand exported 12.3 billion baht ($A569 million) of coconut milk in 2019, including 2.2 billion baht to the European Union and Britain, according to the government.

PETA says an undercover investigation of eight Thai farms found monkeys are forced to gather as many as 1000 coconuts a day and treated cruelly.

It says its campaign has led several major retail outlets to remove products from companies alleged to use Thai coconuts harvested by monkeys.

The PETA campaign has drawn extra attention after it was publicly applauded by Carrie Symonds, the fiancee of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

PETA senior vice-president Jason Baker rejects the Thai commerce minister’s denial of monkey abuse in the industry.

“The government can lead the industry to operate humanely, with an animal-free method that the rest of the region has already adopted, or it can be responsible for the industry’s downfall, because the writing is on the wall,” he said in an statement.

Jurin says his ministry will hold a meeting on Wednesday with coconut industry representatives and he will invite foreign diplomats to see how harvesting is carried out.