Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Primate Slave Labour

"As his parents were coconut farmers, Somporn experienced the traditional use of monkeys for the harvest of coconuts. These monkeys were often beaten by their owners when they didn't perform as expected."
"This gave him the idea to teach monkeys in a better way. His Buddhist teacher encouraged him to teach monkeys positively, without the use of force or violence."
Monkey Training School, Surat, Thani, Thailand
"What I find most distressing is that they take them from [the] wild, keep them tethered and keep them that way their whole life."
"Monkeys should stay in the wild."
Marji Beach, education director, Animal Place farm sanctuary, California

"[Monkeys are] strong, enjoy climbing, are not afraid of heights, do not complain, do not call for higher wages ... and are not corrupt. They do not require social security and accident insurance."
"Monkeys are therefore considered a 'living machine' that is very valuable for coconut farmers."
Monkey training school, Bangkok
"Instead of living fulfilling, autonomous lives in deference to their natural instincts and will -- lives that would include social interaction with others of their kind, mating, raising young, moving about freely and resting whenever they choose -- these monkeys spend their lives in endless toil and forced obedience to the will of humans."
All American Vegan website

Monkeys are undeniably agile and intelligent, so intelligent that they can communicate in a meaningful way with humans when patiently taught symbolic languages and the manner in which their preferences can be understood by humans. In the monkey training schools in Thailand, however, monkeys are taught to harvest coconuts, they are not asked if they are satisfied to be of service to human taskmasters.

Monkeys have proven to be outstandingly competent as pickers. Their skills -- taught to them from a young age in the interests of coconut farms and their historical trade utilizing maximum capacities of these hugely adaptable creatures comfortable living in trees and negotiating their way around them to pluck the fruits that humans value -- represent a bonus for their owners.

Male macaque monkeys are capable of harvesting approximately1,600 coconuts daily. Females are able to harvest a still-considerable 600 coconuts each day. The female monkeys are not as outstandingly oriented to gathering huge numbers of coconut on a daily basis, but compared to the ability of humans to harvest 80 at most each day, even their haul is far advanced of human labour.


"It would be difficult to find a coconut produce made in Thailand that wasn't picked by a monkey", remarked Arjen Schroevers of the Monkey Training school in Surat Thani,. The school was founded in 1957; its founder, Somporn Saekhow, developed a relationship with his worker monkeys unlike most others, treating them gently: "Do it quickly son, and when we finish this, you can go home", he would say of the need to be kind.

"The monkeys are innocent. If we beat them, it's a sin", he explained. How gently? Well, not without a leash that remains a permanent fixture, ensuring that the clever macaques never take it into their heads to simply leave the slave labour to which they have been introduced and remain captive to. The pig-tailed macaques are viewed as indispensable to Thailand coconut producers.

The industry of the monkeys are the fulcrum upon which the industry of coconut farming is predicated. Their labour is dependable and produced on demand to the satisfaction of their owners. The once-wild animals, once caught at a young age and exposed to the rigours of slavery with its unending expectations have no purpose in life of their own volition, but to obey the demand that they fulfill the human will to gather coconuts to earn their keep.

It isn't just people in the West who find it distasteful that monkeys are kept as slave labour with little quality to their lives other than for their capacity to cleverly gather consumer items, but Thais themselves who have no idea how the coconut availability they take for granted comes at a cost to the dignity and freedom of other animal species.

"We were shocked as we’d always imagined the coconuts were picked by men. These monkeys were made to work such long hours, tethered cruelly by a rope." 
"We used to love coconuts – but seeing this has made us realize that the demand has sparked a cruel trade. The monkeys looked sad and tired", remarked one Thai tourist coming across a coconut farm for the first time.


Even if the Monkey Training schools claim they practise showing the macaques kindness and never punishing them for mistakes, the animals are not free, ever. The monkeys are taught how to disentangle themselves from ropes and how to select ripe fruit. Some are taught to collect grounded coconuts and to place them into sacks; saving their owner from back-breaking labour, their only reward the food required to sustain them.

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