Monkeys are being abused to make coconut milk

A leading supermarket in the UK has ditched trendy coconut milk produced by 'cruel' monkey labour.

The Co-Op has become the first major supermarket to stop selling all coconut milk from Thailand in its 2,800 stores.

It comes after an undercover investigation revealed the cruel treatment of the monkeys used to pick the coconuts.

Coconut milk has become a popular alternative to traditional dairy milk among vegans and shoppers concerned about the welfare of dairy cows.

But an investigation by the animal welfare group PETA found the macaque monkeys used to climb high branches to get the coconuts suffered chilling abuse.

Now the Co-op is only selling coconut milk sourced from Sri Lanka, a product that is not produced with monkey labour.

The investigation by PETA investigated coconut farms in nine provinces in southern Thailand.

Among claimed abuses in the investigation was a trainer caught on camera dangling a screaming monkey by the neck and striking him with a tether.

In another case a monkey used for breeding was kept chained in the sun, without access to water, while other young monkeys were confined in cramped cages.

Labourers spoken to by the investigators said some monkeys suffered broken bones from falling out of trees – or being yanked down by humans.

One worker told the investigators most monkeys were kidnapped from their families in nature, even though the species exploited by the coconut trade are threatened or endangered.

The Thai government has denied claims of widespread abuse, saying the traditional practice of using monkeys to harvest coconuts is almost non-existent in industry, which, due to its scale, instead depends upon human labour and machinery.

However, recent estimate by Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand estimated that Thai farmers keep a total of 4,000 to 5,000 monkeys, with around a third used for labour.

Wildlife experts say that growers typically use two species of monkeys: northern and southern pig-tailed macaques, with the northern species listed as vulnerable and the southern endangered according to the International Union of Conservation of Nature red list.

A Co-op spokesperson said: 'As a convenience retailer, we continually review our ranges to ensure we're providing the best quality products for our member owners and customers and have been rolling out Co-op's first Sri Lankan own-brand coconut milk since March.'