The ministry is ready to invite foreign diplomats to visit coconut plantations and witness for themselves how monkeys pick coconuts, said Boonyarit Kalayanamit, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, "I guarantee that diplomats will realise that this is not animal cruelty as claimed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)."
Boonyarit was responding to news allegations that major western retailers have begun to pull Thai coconut products from their shelves because the coconuts were picked by poorly treated monkeys.
Peta told Western media that monkeys were forcibly used by Thai farms that supply some of Thailand's coconut milk brands, which are exported to many countries in Europe and the United States.
Meanwhile, Somjai Sae Kow, the owner of a school which trains the monkeys in the southern province of Surat Thani, said monkeys are bred and raised before being trained.
According to Peta, the monkeys are snatched from the wild and trained to pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day.
"The monkeys are not forced to pick 1,000 coconuts per day, as claimed by Peta," said Somjai, "actually, the owner of the monkey gets paid 2 baht per coconut picked."
Somjai explained to the media that humans are not built to climb up a coconut tree to pick fruit.
"They will be at risk, compared to monkeys which have the natural ability to do so," she said.
The animal rights group said pigtailed macaques in Thailand were treated like "coconut-picking machines".
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that in Britain, Waitrose, Ocado, the Co-op and Boots all vowed to stop selling certain Thai coconut products.
Peta also said on its website that it had found eight farms in Thailand where monkeys were forced to pick coconuts for export.
Boonyarit said his ministry will discuss the issue with the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to find further solutions.- Xinhua
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