People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia has recently conducted three investigations into Thailand’s coconut industry. In a shocking turn of events, its latest inquiry revealed a shocking connection to everyone’s favourite meal kit company, HelloFresh, and the fact that it might have been using monkeys to do its dirty work.
According to the report, which was carried out over eight months from December 2021 to July 2022, PETA discovered that—despite the Thai government previously denying monkey labor was still used in making the exported products—chained monkeys were continually forced to spend long hours climbing tall trees and picking heavy coconuts.
The animal protection organisation reported witnessing a number of young macaque monkeys (which are the most commonly used species) kept in small cages and separated from one another—despite the fact these particular animals are incredibly social and crave interaction.
Monkeys ‘in training’ are kept chained with rigid metal collars around their necks. Handlers use intimidation and abuse to teach them to obey. Investigative footage taken by PETA showed one trainer striking a monkey, dangling him by the neck, and then whipping him with the tether. Once their training is complete, the animals are then sold to coconut pickers where they are repeatedly mistreated, yanked from trees, and manhandled.
The nonprofit organisation has stated that HelloFresh is fully aware that two of the coconut milk suppliers it uses partake in extensive animal abuse and yet it refuses to act. The report further informed the public that Suree, an affiliate of the meal kit company, works with a supplier that kept monkeys chained on flooded land or trash-strewn patches of dirt with almost no protection from the elements. Furthermore, a worker in Suree’s supply chain also told investigators that the monkeys would be forced to pick coconuts for more than a decade before being “retired”—chained up for the rest of their lives.
CBS News reported that HelloFresh claimed it received written assurances from its suppliers that the coconuts are not procured using monkeys. It stated: “HelloFresh strictly condemns any use of monkey labor in its supply chain, and we take a hard position of not procuring from suppliers or selling coconut products which have been found to use monkey labor. We have written confirmation from all of our suppliers—in the US and globally—that they do not engage in these practices.”
However, this most recent report shines a much darker light on the Berlin-based company. The recent discovery is not the first time HelloFresh has found itself in hot water. In 2021, a number of employees at the company faced an aggressive anti-union campaign, as reported by The Guardian. Workers alleged a culture of intimidation, disrespect, and aggression had soured the company environment.
Aindra Hernandez, an employee in the quality assurance department at HelloFresh, told the news outlet: “There have been so many problems with disrespect, with not being given the material we need to work, and injuries happening in the workplace. It’s very unjust that all of this treatment gets so normalised. There are so many people who fear getting sent home early or the managers being upset with them, like I was sent home, and that makes workers very afraid. We need to change that.”
However, this scandal didn’t ultimately impact HelloFresh’s growth, as just last year the company took home $420.3 million in profits. So, only time will tell if ‘guilty by association’ may impact this titan of the industry.