It’s an alarming claim: Captured monkeys in Thailand are being forced to perform manual labor under abusive conditions to help stock American grocery store shelves with coconut milk, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  

PETA says its investigators in Asia uncovered the use of monkey labor at eight farms, several training facilities, and a coconut-picking competition. The controversial animal rights group specifically points the finger at Chaokoh — a company that sells its products to grocery stores in the United States.

What You Need To Know

  • PETA accuses Thai company of using monkey labor to harvest coconuts

  • The animal rights group protested at Publix’s corporate offices Thursday

  • Publix: Ambassador assured us monkeys are not used in coconut harvesting

On Thursday, PETA targeted Publix, posting a video of protesters in monkey suits dumping wheelbarrows of coconuts in front of the grocery stores’s corporate offices in Lakeland. An hour later, PETA tweeted a picture of the protesters with signs calling for Publix to “stop selling coconut milk from tortured monkeys.”

Publix sent the following statement to Spectrum News:

"We work with our suppliers, industry leaders, governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations because we recognize our responsibility and take concerns about animal welfare seriously. In this case related to the Chaokoh brand products we carry, we have reviewed the third-party audit and affidavits from the coconut farmers stating that no monkeys are used to pick coconuts on the farms at issue. We have also received the written assurance sent from Thailand's ambassador to the U.S. stating that the Thai Food Processors Association has confirmed that monkeys are not used in the commercial harvesting of coconuts.”

The third-party audit referenced in Publix’s statement was conducted by Bureau Veritas Certification and called the Monkey-Free Coconut Due Diligence Assessment, according to Chaokok’s website.

A summary of the audit posted to the website of Chaokoh's parent company, Theppadungporn Coconut Co., Ltd. says 64 of its 817 coconut farms were randomly selected for inspection, and no evidence of monkey labor was found.

Theppadungporn also released a statement back in July on PR Newswire. It sought to ensure “discerning customers” that all products are environmentally sustainable and produced without monkey labor.

In October, USA Today reported that Costco stopped purchasing coconut milk from Chaokoh. PETA provided the newspaper with a letter from Costco’s vice president and general merchandise manager of corporate food and sundries, which read in part:

“We have made it clear to the supplier that we do not support the use of monkeys for harvesting and that all harvesting must be done by human labor,” Kimble wrote. “In turn, our supplier has contractually required the same of all its suppliers. In addition, our supplier is in the process of visiting every one of its supplier farms to communicate the harvest policies.”

USA Today followed up in November after Wegmans, Walgreens, Stop & Shop, Giant Food, and Food Lion had all followed suit. A week later, the Los Angeles Times reported that California-based Super King Markets had also severed ties with Chaokoh.