Amid Claims of Forced Monkey Labor, Grocery Stores Drop Coconut Milk Brand

Costco and several other retailers have reportedly stopped selling Chaokoh brand coconut milk after PETA alleged its farms used monkeys for forced labor.

Other stores that have reportedly dropped the brand after the claims of animal abuse include Stop & Shop, Walgreens, Food Lion, Giant Food, according to USA Today. The drink's Thailand-based manufacturer Theppadungporn Coconut Co. was accused of using monkeys in Thailand to pick coconuts and keeping them in cruel conditions.

"PETA Asia’s investigators found cruelty to monkeys on every farm, at every monkey-training facility, and in every coconut-picking contest that used monkey labor," PETA claimed in a press release. "When not being forced to pick coconuts or perform in circus-style shows for tourists, the animals were kept tethered, chained to old tires, or confined to cages barely larger than their bodies."

"Many displayed repetitive behavior indicative of extreme mental anguish, including one monkey who chewed on one of his own limbs," PETA added. "One coconut farmer confirmed that when monkeys are terrified and try to defend themselves, handlers may have their teeth pulled out."

A spokesperson for Theppadungporn Coconut Co. did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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A rep for Theppadungporn Coconut Co. told USA Today that it surveyed its coconut farms via a recent third-party report titled "Monkey-Free Coconut Due Diligence Assessment," which they said "did not find the use of monkeys for coconut harvesting."

"Following the recent news about the use of 'monkey labor' 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 labor in our coconut plantations," read the company's statement.

Walmart told CNN that it will "continue to engage with this supplier regarding our expectations, the severity of these allegations and that the supplier will take corrective action if needed." The company added, "Walmart is committed to sourcing responsibility and we expect that our suppliers will not tolerate animal abuse of any kind."

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement on Wednesday that "no kind shopper wants monkeys to be chained up and treated like coconut-picking machines."

In separate statements to USA Today, Kroger and Target both said they are looking into the claims. Target told the outlet on Friday: "We believe in the humane treatment of animals and expect those who do business with us to do the same. We’re looking into Chaokoh’s practices and will determine next steps accordingly."

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