Whether it's oat or almond milk, many people have switched to nondairy substitutes in recent years. After all, approximately 65 percent of people worldwide have a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Standard milk consumption has been plummeting in the last two decades, while the popularity of milk alternatives has soared. Nielsen data shows that sales of nondairy milks have risen 23 percent since 2016, CNBC reports. But it turns out, not all of those alternatives are created equal. Following protests about animal cruelty, USA Today reports that wholesale club Costco will cease stocking Chaokoh coconut milk. The news follows revelations about the alleged use of forced monkey labor in the picking of coconuts used to make Chaokoh. Read on to learn the details, and for more products being pulled, check out Nordstrom Just Became the First Retailer to Ban These Products.
PETA brought the unethical practices to Costco's attention.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched a campaign highlighting the fact that in farms owned by Chaokoh's parent company, Thailand-based Theppadungporn Coconut Co. Ltd, chained monkeys were being used to pick coconuts. "No kind shopper wants monkeys to be chained up and treated like coconut-picking machines," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement in September.
The pressure group sent a delivery of fresh, humanely picked coconuts to Costco President and CEO W. Craig Jelinek along with a letter outlining the findings of their investigation last month.
According to PETA, the farms owned by Chaokoh's parent company use "coercion" to train monkeys to pick coconuts.
"Chaokoh is complicit in an industry that's forcing monkeys—confined for life, sometimes with their teeth removed, always on chains, and often driven insane from being deprived of everything that's natural and important to them—to collect coconuts," PETA wrote. "It seems that monkeys used in the coconut industry are illegally captured in nature as babies. Then, they endure abusive training. Investigators visited 'monkey schools,' which exploit the animals to entertain visitors through tricks such as riding bicycles and shooting basketballs. Coercion is used to train them to pick coconuts, as they wouldn't voluntarily do it."
Costco is launching its own investigation into Chaokoh.
In a letter to PETA dated Sept. 29, obtained by USA Today, Ken Kimble, Costco's vice president and general merchandise manager of corporate food and sundries, wrote: "We have ceased purchasing from our supplier/owner of the brand Chaokoh." He added that Costco shared PETA's "concern about the alleged treatment of monkeys" and that the chain had launched its own investigation. "We have made it clear to the supplier that we do not support the use of monkeys for harvesting and that all harvesting must be done by human labor," Kimble wrote.
Walgreens and Stop&Shop also pulled Chaokoh.
Costco is the latest retailer to cease stocking certain types of coconut milk like Chaokoh over concerns about cruelty in the production process, including Walgreens, Food Lion, Giant Food, and Stop&Shop. Chaokoh is also sold at Target, Walmart, and Kroger's, according to their websites.
However, for fans of coconut milk, there is hope for the future–Chaokoh's owners told USA Today that they are conducting an audit of all plantations and supply chains to vouch for them now being free of monkey-labor. Kimble added in his letter to PETA that Cotsco "will continue to monitor the implementation of the harvest policies and once satisfied will resume purchasing." And for more on how to get the most from your shop at Costco, check out how This Insider Secret Will Save You Money Every Time You Shop at Costco.