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On Wednesday, coconut farmers in southern Thailand refuted a US-based animal rights group's claim that monkeys are compelled to pick their crops.
Media outlets suggest several British supermarket stores have now taking Thai coconut goods off their shelves after a video released by the People for Animal Humane Care, or PETA, showing the monkeys being handcuffed and told to climb up coconut trees. Yet local farmers have said the livestock are regarded as part of their community with reverence.
"The usage of monkeys will not contravene their will," said Singha Nusui, a Trang coconut grower. "We learn their tasks, we should leave when they're done.
He said, "There is no such brutality here." Trang, the hometown of Singha, is renowned for its coconut orchards and a history of monkeys serving as cocoa harvesters. Monkeys were split from their communities according to PETA, and required to harvest up to 1,000 coconuts a day.
The livestock are used by farmers producing Thailand's best-known brands of coconut milk, Aroy-D and Chaokoh, which have been shipped to the United States and European nations, the company said.
PETA has claimed that because of the extreme environments, the monkeys are "led to despair.”
"The scared young monkeys are expected to undertake exhausting and difficult activities such as spinning heavy coconuts before they collapse from a great height off the trees," said the organization. "Such rational animals gradually loose their minds without the ability to walk about, socialize with others, or do something else that is important to them."
Monkeys are known throughout the world by coconut farmers for their nimble capacity to scale coconut trees and pick up fruits. Trang farmer Sa-ngiam Charoensuk said the livestock are even cheaper than employing humans for the same work, too.
"I need to focus more on monkey labor, because coconut prices are dropping," he said. "People must have paid 100 baht per tree to collect it. Every tree has around 10 coconuts, so this will make little benefit. Humane abuse occurs when you starve them to death but monkeys are well treated and groomed here. That's our way of life.'
A monkey coach on Koh Samui said he had never abused or mistreated the animals he had schooled for coconut harvest as PETA claimed.
"We don't let them starve to death, they survive better than in the jungles," said Prawat Rakduang. "We never know about the animals, but like keyboard warriors, we write about it and destroy our reputations. Monkeys in turn support other growers. They should have told us first about it.
According to Nukun Look-in, president of the Thai Coconut Farmers Confederation, several farmers who can manage machinery have switched away from using monkeys a long time ago.
Nukun, who is in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, said it is wrong to prohibit Thailand coconut goods on the basis of animal use, as monkey labour is liable for just 10 per cent of all coconuts extracted in Thailand.
Commerce minister Jurin Laksanawisit has claimed the usage of monkey labor in the Thai coconut industry is "completely non-existent." He said PETA 's images could represent the monkeys in the tourism business, where they are sometimes educated for displays.
"It's an equivocation. Until this thing occurred,' said Jurin on Monday. "I believe the monkeys should only be used to collect coconuts at tourist places. The large scale use of monkeys is nearly non-existent. We 're asking the parties involved to see the exact photo this Wednesday.
The conference to be arranged today is set for Wednesday afternoon. Talking before Jurin 's conference, PETA vice president Jason Baker said the minister would stop boasting about the exploitation of the animals.
"PETA wishes they can avoid lying to the public and accept the abuse of monkeys by business," Baker said in a statement. "Our report is clear and unambiguous."