Thailand will invite European diplomats to inspect its coconut farms to disprove claims by animal rights activists that the industry uses abusive monkey labour, officials said.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Mananya Thaiset said yesterday that the government is planning to invite foreign diplomats to coconut farms in the southern province of Surat Thani where people use tools, not monkeys, to pick coconuts.
Her comments followed a report last week by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that said more than 15,000 shops, many based in Europe, had agreed to stop buying coconut products from Thailand after the group found the industry abuses monkeys and forces them to pick coconuts.
Mananya said yesterday that all exported Thai coconut products are produced using coconuts picked by humans from shorter coconut trees, and none are produced using coconuts picked by monkeys.
However, Somchai Duangmunta, a 64-year old monkey trainer in southern Thailand, said on Thursday that around 80% of all coconuts in southern Thailand are picked using monkeys.
He said only monkeys are able to take down coconuts from trees higher than 15m.
“We have to rely on monkeys quite a bit because the local coconut trees here are very tall,” Somchai said.
He said images of monkeys being chained and abused do not accurately reflect how the animals are treated.
“Monkeys have been with us since our ancestors for people in the south. We live together like family,” he said.
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