Coconut oil and animal cruelty


I’ve previously written about all the wonderful beauty benefits of coconut oil. That is not to mention the health benefits. But then I read this post about how coconut oil is often harvested by enslaved monekys and I was completely stunned. It really highlighted one thing for me- that every choice we make has a myriad of ethical considerations attached. Every single thing we use may be having a negative impact. 

Stephanie Villano has done an amazing job highlighting the ethical issues in our coconut oil, and looking at the brands that are doing it well, so I wanted to share it for you today. This post originally appeared on her blog My Kind Closet where she writes about a vegan approach to fashion. 

Is Your Coconut Oil a Product of Animal Exploitation?

Surely you do your best to make the most ethical choices when shopping for products for your home.  Some things you might consider: Were these products fairly traded? Were they produced under fair and ethical labor conditions? Were these products tested on animals? Does this product contain something like palm oil that is a leading cause of deforestation and a major contributor to the plight of the orangutan?

These are great questions to ask and certainly worth the additional effort it may take to get answers.

But, prepare to be bummed out, because I’ve got another disconcerting problem for you to consider: were the coconuts harvested for use in your coconut oil containing products picked by enslaved pig tailed macaques?

Yes. You read that correctly. And, sadly, no, I’m not joking.

Human beings have a great capacity for love, compassion, kindness, and advancing our civilization and culture to great heights.

And yet, we are also excellent at exploiting and mistreating others in the name of profit and progress.

I honestly thought I’ve heard it all throughout the years as I try to be more aware of how the products I use are made and where the products I consume come from.  Some of the things I’ve learned about: factory workers who are forced to work unreasonably long hours in unsafe working conditions; undocumented injuries occurring in factories with little to no efforts made to rectify the problem; factory farmers cramming highly intelligent pigs into gestation crates during their pregnancy so they cannot move ;  the stealing of dolphins and whales for use in the marine parks industry or also for meat…The list goes on…

The horrors we inflict on our fellow beings are appalling and I know that any sane person would reject this treatment as barbaric if only they stopped to consider it.

Which brings me to these monkeys.

I had no idea this was even a thing.

I’ve been to Southeast Asia and I’m well aware how both the animal tourism industry and the working animal industry is very much alive and central elements within their economies, especially in Thailand.

In fact, it was upon witnessing the underlying (and overt) horrors of the elephant tourism industry during my visit to Thailand  that prompted my interest in animal rights.

I suppose I was so focused on learning about the exploitation of elephants that I was never encountered with an opportunity to visit one of the many “monkey training” schools where monkeys are trained from a very young age, as early as one month old, to harvest coconuts. As enterprising monkey trainers realized the amount of money to be made in tourism they opened their doors to tourists and have expanded to include circus-like shows where their monkeys perform tricks for an audience.

It’s no surprise that these places are lightheartedly marketed to tourists as a unique and entertaining experience for the whole family.  It is yet another example of humans regarding other beings as mere objects of entertainment; their only value comes from the pleasure and joy gleaned by tourists willing to pay money to watch them pick coconuts or perform silly tricks that rouse oooh’s and aaah’s from the crowd.

And while tourists marvel at these monkeys as tiny curiosities, they snap photos using the monkeys as props, smiling broadly as a monkey shackled by the neck and chained to a pole sits idly by.

All I see when I look at these photos is willful ignorance in the face of pretty obvious cruelty.

“But it looks like the animals are well cared for and enjoy what they’re doing,” one might say.

Whether or not the monkey is well cared for is irrelevant, as the monkey should never be in the care of a human to begin with. And this is the main point, isn’t it?

The sad reality to all of this is that these animals were stolen from the wild. While some are born into captivity on breeding farms, many were purchased from poachers who trap them in the forest and even stoop so low as to kill nursing mothers to steal the babies. After all, a monkey trained from a young age will be easier to handle and will become more skilled in his ability to yield the most coconuts.

Pig-tailed macaques can live 40 years. FORTY YEARS. Could you imagine living the duration of your life in shackles, laboring for long hours harvesting coconuts, or performing silly tricks, with little time to socialize with members of your group? To live a life with no free will?

No. You would not. And I’m sure you’ll agree that these monkeys feel the same way.

Training takes several months and physical punishment is typically used to force the monkeys into submission. Monkeys who are well trained will be resold to coconut farmers for a high-price, making this aspect of the industry quite profitable for trainers.

For the rest of the post, including the brands that are cruelty-free, visit the original post


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