Coco industry advocacy group United Coconut Association of the Philippines strongly denied using monkeys to harvest coconuts amid the circulation of a viral video which elicited negative reaction from consumers, animal rights activists and other cause-oriented groups abroad.
“The use of monkey labor in harvesting coconuts in the Philippines was never a practice in its long history of coconut farming. Production of 15 billion nuts annually are manually harvested by coconut farmers and farm workers,” UCAP said in a statement.
The animal rights group PETA showed pigtailed macaques in Thailand working like “coconut-picking machines”. After seeing the video, the UK Prime Minister’s fiancée Carrie Symonds, a conservationist, recently called on all supermarkets to boycott the products.
The Philippine Coconut Authority said there is no monkey business in the local coco farming practice.
“Philippine coconut farmers do not use monkeys in harvesting coconuts for local use, exports or even tourism purposes,” said ret. Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno of the PCA Office of the Administrator.
Coconut trees dot an estimated 3.6 hectares of land in the Philippines while 3.5 million Filipinos are engaged in coconut farming.
The local arm of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the international animal rights group which documented the now viral video, also echoed their support for the Philippine coconuts farmers and industry.
“Other coconut-growing regions—including the Philippines, India, Brazil, Colombia, and Hawaii—harvest coconuts for export using humane methods such as tractor-mounted hydraulic elevators, willing human tree-climbers, rope or platform systems, or ladders. Thailand can easily implement these humane methods, too,” PETA said in a statement.
The group also made it clear that “PETA does not want coconut milk or oil to be banned.”
“We only want monkeys to be removed from the coconut-picking process,” PETA said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, through the office of Secretary Roy Cimatu, also assured consumers, animal rights and cause-oriented groups that “the Philippines has high respect for animal rights, hence, (monkey farming) is a practice that is not done, encouraged nor tolerated in our country.”
UCAP assured consumers that “the Philippines proudly offers itself as an alternative, ethically-sourced supplier of coconut products of the highest standards.”
Yearly export earnings of Philippine-harvested coconuts reach up to $2 billion, making the country the number one source of coconuts worldwide.