Target Will Stop Selling Forced Monkey Labor Made Coconut Milk. Wait. What?
Note: What a headline huh? I'm pretty sure I could use some hyphens in there but I couldn't figure out where to put them. Probably my favorite headline since this gem back in 2017.
Back to the monkey labor.
Obviously a bad look for Target here. Can't be slinging monkey slave juice next to some throw pillows. Not these days at least. I'm not going to mention the brand because of the whole forced monkey labor thing, but if you've shopped the Asian aisle of your grocery store, you've seen this brand. More on that later.
Being a responsible consumer of media. I dug deeper and actually read the article.
Hope you're sitting down for this, it involves P.E.T.A. Yes, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is behind the story about forced monkey labor.
Now, here's the thing about P.E.T.A. I don't really mind them (other than the dog thing, google it.) I think there's a lot of misguided passion that does a lot of good things but definitely crosses lines at times.
The video P.E.T.A. put out on this is not good. I'm not going to post the video here because I'm not into posting light primate torture, but again, that google box will take you directly where you want to go.
Now, because I don't trust P.E.T.A. I decided to go a little further. I found this article from NPR published in 2015 about the adorable pet monkeys used to harvest coconuts.
Apparently, there is a farm sanctuary in California named Animal Place that raised awareness of the monkey abuse 6 years ago. NPR decided to research it.
They contacted coconut farms in Thailand and this was part of the response:
It would be difficult to find a coconut product made in Thailand that wasn't picked by a monkey. Monkeys pick 99 percent of the Thai coconuts sold for their oil and flesh.
They also spoke to a man that runs a monkey training school. (NPR linked to it but it seems to be dead.) He makes it sound like a shepherd/sheepdog relationship:
It is always relaxed, no shouting, no punishing. Every few trees the monkey hugs his owner, who then checks the monkey for red ants and the monkey gets a massage. Outside working hours the monkeys are kept as a pet. They are unfriendly to strangers.
NPR then reached out to a professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii that studied monkey-human relationships.
During our time in southern Thailand, we never observed or heard of cruelty or abuse of the monkeys....similar to family pets, and for some households, even like family members to some degree.
The professor does admit that there is definitely some abuse out there, but it's probably unavoidable:
That is not to say that there is never any cruelty or mistreatment... the poor farmers and others who are just trying to survive and prosper in support of their families.
So I think we can boil this story down to a few options:
A) P.E.T.A. has uncovered widespread monkey abuse and the companies that employ it should be punished immediately.
2) P.E.T.A. stumbled upon an isolated incident of abuse but the vast majority of reputable companies do not use it.
D) P.E.T.A. fabricated the entire story and possibly even abused the monkeys themselves but there's still probably some monkey abuse out there, but only in very isolated incidents.
The biggest take away is the missed marketing opportunity for the coconut advertising agency. You put together a cute video of a farmer and his monkey harvesting coconuts and you have viral gold my friend.
A primate does hold the title for the funniest YouTube clip ever.