You might not be able to stock up on canned coconut milk next trip for one very important reason.

By Karla Walsh
October 29, 2020
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Getty / MADAREE TOHLALA / Contributor
| Credit: Getty / MADAREE TOHLALA / Contributor

If you don't spot any cans of coconut milk on your next shopping trip, it's likely not the result of a huge jump in demand for the curry recipe staple or vegan ice cream base.

It's because retailers are pledging to remove coconut products from Thai suppliers that have been accused of using monkeys (yes, the wild animals) as forced labor to pick coconuts from trees for their products. The common brand Chaokoh is among the accused retailers. They have denied the allegations.

Officials from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals teamed up with USA TODAY to break the news this week. So far, Costco, Food Lion, Giant Foods, Stop & Shop and Walgreens have all pledged to remove these brands from shelves and stop stocking them. Walmart, Target and Kroger have not taken a public stance as of press time.

"No kind shopper wants monkeys to be chained up and treated like coconut-picking machines," Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, said in a statement to USA Today. "Costco made the right call to reject animal exploitation, and PETA is calling on holdouts like Kroger to follow suit."

Since 2019, PETA has been diving into potential animal exploitation and has been asking stores to stop selling coconut milk potentially made with coconuts harvested by monkeys.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand website promotes monkey labor as an acceptable business practice and even a tourist attraction. PETA's corporate responsibility officer Kent Stein noted that their investigation uncovered the fact that the monkeys pick about 400 coconuts a day—while on chains—and are held in cages the rest of the day when they're not on the clock.

"Just because something is legal or accepted, it doesn't mean it's OK," Stein told USA Today. "What really drives this change is retailers not supporting the product, and of course, customers not buying the product."

Chaokoh responded in a statement that its suppliers have signed papers vowing that they're not using monkey labor at their farms: "Following the recent news about the use of 'monkey labour' in Thailand's coconut industry, Chaokoh, one of the world's leaders in coconut milk production, reassures that we do not engage the use of monkey labour in our coconut plantation."

There are still plenty of above-board coconut milk products that have been confirmed as not using monkey labor. Find a current list on peta.org.

This story originally appeared on eatingwell.com