On Monday, Target became the latest retailer to stop selling Chaokoh coconut milk, according to a statement from PETA. In recent months, the animal rights organization has led a boycott campaign against Chaokoh claiming that it uses forced monkey labor to manufacture its product.
In the announcement, PETA’s Executive Vice President, Tracy Reiman, said, “PETA exposés have confirmed that Thai coconut producers are exploiting monkeys and lying about it, so there’s no excuse for any grocery store to keep Chaokoh on its shelves.” The organization applauded Target for joining “thousands of stores” that have agreed to break ties like Wegmans and Costco.
In an emailed statement to Gizmodo, a Target spokesperson said, “we take seriously the claims made against Chaokoh, and given they were unable to sufficiently address the concerns raised, we made the decision to remove their product from our assortment in November 2020.”
Chaokoh told USA Today in November that it does not use monkey labor and pointed to a third-party audit that claimed to have randomly selected 64 out of 817 coconut farms for inspection and found no monkey’s harvesting coconuts.
PETA’s accusations stem from multiple investigations it conducted of the coconut-picking regions of Thailand. It reported that these coconut farms take monkeys from their mothers when they’re young, give them rigid metal collars, and chain them up. The monkeys are then reportedly trained to climb the trees in their general area and pull down the coconuts for collection. Monkeys who resist their captors are said to have their canine teeth removed. According to the investigation, some monkeys are required to hold down two jobs as their owners force them to participate in “circus-style shows.” (Video of the monkeys can be seen here, but animal lovers should be warned that it’s a huge bummer.)
PETA says that Brazil, Colombia, Hawaii, and some other regions get by just fine producing coconuts without forcing monkeys to do their bidding, and it maintains a list of brands that produce coconut water in an ethical manner. The activist organization said that it’s now turning its attention to pressuring a shrinking list of retailers it says are holding out.