You remember in Disney’s Moana, when the people of Motunui wax lyrical about the benefits of the coconut, how they use “each part of the coconut, it’s all you need.” It’s a real jaunty tune.
Now imagine that same song but it takes place on a Thai coconut plantation, where monkeys are reportedly brutally forced to knock the coconuts from the trees before being kept in cages or tied to posts for hours, and the lyrics about how the land “gives us what we need, and no one leaves,” takes on a whole new meaning.
As of Tuesday, the last two products you can find from Chaokoh on Walmart’s website are cans Jack Fruit and Banana Blossom. This follows a multi-year PETA campaign against the Thai brand over allegations of forced monkey labor. PETA confirmed that Walmart had stopped selling the brand’s coconut products Monday. The brand is also no longer listed on Sam’s Club’s site.
PETA’s campaign has been effective thanks to disturbing videos alongside allegations that monkeys were being illegally abducted at a young age from their families, fitted with metal collars, and were exploited for their ability to climb trees and pick coconuts. Two separate 2019 and 2020 investigations documented how the monkeys were chained for extended periods of time, kept in cramped cages and left outside in the rain, had their canine teeth forcibly removed, and were isolated until they were “driven insane.”
“The coconut trade uses social monkeys as chained-up coconut-picking machines, depriving them of any opportunity to eat, play, or spend time with their families,” PETA’s executive VP Tracy Reiman said in a press release. Reinman went on to say, “retailers are dropping Chaokoh left and right.”
Multiple supermarkets and shops have sought to avoid being associated with the brand. Gizmodo previously reported that last year, one of Walmart’s biggest competitors Target dropped Chaokoh coconut milk from its shelves. Previously, Wegmans, Costco, Walgreens, Giant Food, and Stop & Shop had also stopped carrying Chaokoh products.
After Wegmens dropped Chaokoh coconut milk in November of 2020, a Chaokoh spokesperson told USA Today “we do not engage the use of monkey labor in our coconut plantations,’ adding that suppliers have signed memorandum agreements to not use monkey labor at their farms.
Theppadungporn Coconut Company owns the Chaokoh brand. Theppadungporn’s website includes a link to a 2020 report by Bureau Veritas, a French company that conducts independent inspections. The coconut company claimed that Veritas’ audit titled “Monkey-Free Coconut Due Diligence Assessment” found that a randomly selected 64 of 817 farms did not find use of monkeys for coconut harvesting.
PETA’s reports have alleged that both the company and the Thai government have failed to take meaningful action, instead relying “on a misleading and inadequate audit system instead of going directly to inspect the farms themselves.”
While this PETA campaign claims it has knocked Chaokoh products from tens of thousands of stores, the animal right’s group’s other campaigns have ranged from hard hitting, to click bait-y—with celebrities gluing their hands to Starbucks countertops, to the honestly ludicrous—such as asking model companies to stop depicting futuristic marauding space vikings with fur cloaks.