For more than two years, an animal rights group has pressured Albertsons Cos. to stop selling canned coconut milk from a Thailand company whose farmers use chained and caged monkeys to pick coconuts.
On Friday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced that Boise-based Albertsons and its Safeway subsidiary had stopped selling Chaokoh coconut milk. In a press release, PETA said Albertsons had followed Costco, Target, Wegmans, Food Lion and Stop & Shop, chains with more than 30,000 stores, that have stopped selling Chaokoh coconut milk.
“A life as a chained-up coconut-picking machine is no life at all for a monkey, who needs to play, eat, and explore with family members,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in the release. “Since PETA exposés have confirmed cover-ups of cruelty on coconut farms, no grocery store with a conscience can keep Chaokoh on its shelves.”
It’s unclear, though, whether Albertsons Cos., in fact, has stopped carrying the brand. Chris Wilcox, an Albertsons spokesperson, would not comment in a phone interview Friday.
PETA recently sent activists wearing monkey suits to dump hundreds of coconuts outside Albertsons’ headquarters at 250 E. Parkcenter Blvd. That came months after the group sent a box of coconuts to Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran and four company executives.
At the Albertsons store at 16th and State Street in Boise, Chaokoh coconut milk could not be found on the shelf Friday. The spot where it had been in November was filled with another product. The company’s online ordering system said the product was “out of stock.”
PETA said it had conducted spot checks at Albertsons and Safeway stores across the country over the past several weeks, including Albertsons stores in Boise, Las Vegas, Portland and Eugene, Oregon, and Huntington Beach, California.
Safeway stores that were visited were in Portland, Denver, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and Redding and San Jose, California.
Out of 15 stores PETA checked, only one, an Albertsons store on Overland Road in Boise, carried Chaokoh coconut milk. It was marked down for clearance, PETA spokesperson Moira Colley said by email.
“In February, we began noticing that Chaokoh was either out of stock or no longer listed on Albertsons’ and Safeway’s websites,” Colley said. “We pointed this out to executives and ultimately thanked them for no longer selling the product, but we never got a response.”
PETA conducted an investigation that revealed young monkeys were trained to pick coconuts at Thailand farms that supply Chaokoh. The monkeys were chained, caged and often driven insane because of the conditions under which they were kept, PETA claimed.
Following an outcry, Theppadungporn Coconut Co., the company behind Chaokoh, said it would require its farmers and suppliers to sign contracts promising to harvest coconuts without animal labor.It hired a French auditing firm, Bureau Veritas, to monitor the farms.
A subsequent PETA investigation found producers were still using monkey labor. The animal rights group said farmers hired contractors to provide monkeys only during harvests and hiding monkeys until auditors left.
“PETA has been asking Chaokoh for its farm list and statements of assurance for more than a year and the company has refused to share them,” Colley said.