Let’s Not Monkey Around with Animals

By William J. Furney

PETA is a remarkable organisation, and each time they do something for the downtrodden creatures of the world, I’m glad I’m a paid-up member of this compassionate and ethical group that knows the world is not just about people. 

This week, the animal-rights organisation famous for daring stunts in cities all over the world released details of an investigation its Asian branch carried out into the use of monkeys to harvest coconuts in Thailand. The pigtailed macaques are trained to pick as many as 1,000 coconuts from towering trees each day — far more than any human could manage — and when not working are kept chained up and in squalid conditions that results in mental torture because these incredibly social animals have no contact with troops, PETA said. 

“PETA Asia investigators visited eight farms where monkeys are forced to pick coconuts — including those for Thailand’s major coconut milk producers, Aroy-D and Chaokoh — as well as several monkey-training facilities and a coconut-picking competition. At each one, they documented that these sensitive animals were abused and exploited,” the report said. 

Following the investigation, thousands of big-name stores around the world dropped the coconut milk products that are also used as ingredients in an array of food items, saying they were unaware they were created using monkey labour — a real and tangible result from an investigation into food practices that almost no one was aware of. 

“These curious, highly intelligent animals are denied psychological stimulation, companionship, freedom, and everything else that would make their lives worth living, all so that they can be used to gather coconuts,” PETA director Elisa Allen said. “PETA is calling on decent people never to support the use of monkey labour by shunning coconut products from Thailand.”

This is what PETA investigators found:

I’ve had several monkeys, in Bali, including babies and a large and snarling rescue monkey whose owner was returning to Hawaii, and I indeed know how incredibly curious and intelligent they are (I had them released into a forest, with the help of a vet, before I left for Europe). Enslaving primates for human gain, the way we do with cattle, sheep, chickens and all the other imprisoned and tortured livestock of the world, is a travesty and a stain on the collective soul of humankind. But thanks to people like those at PETA, we’re evolving to become a kinder and better people, viewing those so-called lesser creatures around us not with disdain and even disgust, but kindness and compassion. 

In some more good news for the animal kingdom this week, a state in India has banned the sale of dog meat — a cheap source of protein in many countries in the region and across wider Asia. Predominantly Hindu India, which reveres cows, monkeys and even rats as sacred, allowing them free rein in public spaces like streets, does not allow the sale of dogs for meat, but states like northeastern Nagaland had been able to get away with it, because they considered dog meat a delicacy. Until now. 

“The State Government has decided to ban commercial import and trading of dogs and dog markets and also the sale of dog meat, both cooked and uncooked. Appreciate the wise decision taken by the State’s Cabinet,” Temjen Toy, Nagaland’s chief secretary, said in a tweet on Friday. 

India is surely the sole country in the world that respects the rights of animals to exist unshackled, unburdened and to live as they please. From my apartment balcony in Goa last year, I watched cows nudge open the complex’s gate and wander in for a poke around the rubbish bins, and no one was bothered by their presence but treated the spectacle as part of a life well shared. 

In the West, it has become fashionable to say you care about animals, but, invariably, those who utter such pronouncements immediately go on to heap their plates with them or head to a burger joint for a big, meaty feed — as I again experienced recently, with a person who proclaimed a love of animals practically mocking me for being vegan. 

How hilarious: not only destroying your own heath (he had an enormous gut), but helping to kill the planet — as meat and dairy farming have the largest carbon footprint of any industry, even transport — and cause untold misery, suffering and torture to animals. 

And let’s not forget that we’re in this coronavirus mess all because of animals, and further eruptions are breaking out because of animals, and it has emerged that a possible new flu-virus pandemic could be imminent because people just cannot stop eating pigs — another curious and intelligent species. 

How revolting. 

It is said that firefighters will not eat pork, because it reminds them of the smell of burning flesh — that of humans. We, all of us, are so alike. And every time we take a bite out of our fellow creatures, we are devouring a part of ourselves. 

  • Title image shows a monkey harvesting coconuts in Thailand as was taken as part of the PETA investigation into monkey labor in the Southeast Asian country. 

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