March 20, 2023
HelloFresh, the Berlin, Germany-based meal kit company, has announced that it will stop using coconut milk from Thailand later this year, after allegations by the animal rights advocacy group PETA of the use of forced monkey labor in the coconut industry there, reports The New York Times.
Abby Dreher, a spokeswoman for HelloFresh, confirmed that “out of an abundance of caution” the company had decided not to buy coconut milk from Thailand starting later this year. The decision was made in December and was made public last week.
Walmart, Costco and other large American retailers have halted sales of Chaokoh coconut milk, a Thai brand; but HelloFresh has pledged to stop using coconut milk from Thailand entirely.
The announcement, reported earlier by Axios, comes after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals published a report last November claiming monkeys were being abused at dozens of coconut retrieval operations that it said its investigators had visited in nine provinces in Thailand. PETA has long claimed that monkeys in Thailand are forced to climb tall trees for hours and to pick coconuts that will be used to make products such as coconut milk, flour, and oil.
PETA also claims that young monkeys are taken from their families to support the harvest. Abducting a wild animal is illegal in Thailand. The Thai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
In the report, PETA said that two of HelloFresh’s suppliers in Thailand relied on the labor of exploited monkeys. The New York Times was unable to confirm details of the PETA investigations independently.
“We have been in an ongoing dialogue with PETA ever since and continue to remind our suppliers, from whom we received written confirmation that they were not using monkey labor in their supply chain, of our high standards,” Dreher said. “Under no circumstances do we tolerate any form of animal abuse in our supply chain.”
In an email to PETA that was obtained by The New York Times, HelloFresh confirmed last month that it would stop buying Thai coconut milk by the summer of 2023 and would seek new suppliers based outside of Thailand.
In a study published in 2021 in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science, researchers interviewed 89 coconut farmers working in three provinces in Thailand. They found that the macaque monkeys worked every day of the week and “typically climbed more than 50 coconut trees” to harvest between 500 and 1,000 coconuts each day.
The Thai embassy told Axios last week that “both the Thai government and the industry are making sure that coconut milk exported from Thailand is not obtained from the use of monkey labor.”
In a government document from last August, the embassy said it was establishing a program, called “Monkey Free Plus,” that would “not only certify coconut plantations on food safety system but also assure that monkeys are not used for harvesting.” The embassy also said it was “promoting hybrid dwarf coconut trees for new planting,” whose short trunks meant that harvesting coconuts would “no longer require monkey labor.”
Research contact: @nytimes