© Reuters. Nirun Wongwiwat, 52, a monkey trainer, trains a monkey during a training session at a coconut harvest monkey school in Surat Thani province
BANGKOK (Reuters) – A monkey trainer in southern Thailand said that very few monkeys are involved in the harvesting of coconuts for export and there has been no abuse at its center. He denied an activist report that Thai products were banned by some British supermarkets.
Earlier this month, some British retailers pulled Thai coconut products after a report by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claimed that coconuts in Thailand had been picked by abused monkeys, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson's fiancee, Carrie Symonds, claimed others Supermarkets to do the same.
PETA said in a previous statement that "practically all" coconuts from Thailand are picked by monkeys.
52-year-old Nirun Wongwanich, who trains monkeys to fetch coconuts at a "monkey school" in the southern province of Surat Thani, says that most of the coconuts used for export are harvested by people with sticks because the trees were shorter.
Few farms in the south use monkeys for older, higher types of coconut trees, he said, adding that he sometimes trains monkeys for these farmers.
Nirun denied allegations of cruelty.
"It is not a truth. I've been with monkeys for over 30 years … I have a bond, a relationship with them, ”he told Reuters.
Nirun says he only trains six to seven monkeys a year and insisted not to hit monkeys because they would be stressed and would not cooperate.
The Thai government decidedly rejected the PETA report and said that the use of monkey work was "almost non-existent".
Mananya Thaiset, Thailand's deputy minister of agriculture, said Thailand's 200,000 coconut farmers use mostly human labor and machinery to harvest.
"Even all the monkeys in the entire forest will not be enough for the industry since we export hundreds of thousands of coconuts (every year)," said Mananya.
Thailand produced over 806,000 tons of coconut over 1,243.7 square kilometers last year, government data show. It exported 12.3 billion baht ($ 396 million) of coconut milk, about 8% of which to the UK.
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