Torturing Primates Is Anything But Monkey Business

In an episode of “Space Academy” called “Monkey Business,” a solar mirror at an agricultural lab fails and only Jake, a chimpanzee, can climb the tower to make the repair. Guided by telepathic instructions from Laura (my role), Jake scales the tower and saves the day.

It broke my heart to work with Jake. When the poor chimp was not on the set, he was locked in a cage barely larger than he was. He looked so sad, and even when he was on the set, he still looked sad and confused. He wasn’t at all enthusiastic about climbing the “tower” (really a succession of props that, when the shots were edited, created the impression of a tall tower). Apes and monkeys are not stunt performers and shouldn’t be forced to be.

The plight of primates (apes and monkeys) is so much worse than simply being forced to grin and perform on Hollywood sets. At this moment, thousands of primates are languishing in cages, living in fear, and being denied everything that’s natural and important to them. These complex, intelligent, and sociable animals will be tortured and killed in crude, cruel, and useless experiments conducted in university, government, and private laboratories.

Numerous investigations have found that in order to abduct primates from their homes in the wild, trappers often shoot mothers from trees, stun the animals with dart guns, and then capture the babies, who cling, panic-stricken, to their mothers’ bodies. Some wildlife traders catch whole primate families in baited traps. The animals are packed into tiny crates with little to no food or water and are taken to filthy holding centers, where they await long and terrifying trips in the cargo holds of passenger airliners. Their destination: laboratories like Covance or Charles River Laboratories, laboratory dealers like Primate Products, Inc., or primate breeding centers.

Torn from their families and social groups, these traumatized primates are typically confined to barren steel cages—a far cry from the lush forests and savannahs of their native habitat.  At home, nonhuman primates travel for miles, foraging for a variety of foods, socializing with family and friends, climbing hills, swinging from vines, swimming in rivers, scampering across fields, and cavorting with their companions. In laboratories, these animals have barely enough room to sit, stand, lie down, or turn around. The rich days full of sensory stimulation that they should be experiencing are replaced by days that are devoid of color, scent, and almost every other type of environmental enrichment. At most, the primates in laboratories are given cheap plastic toys, scratched mirrors, and the occasional slice of apple or banana. Research shows that 90% of primates in laboratories exhibit abnormal behaviors caused by abuse, stress, and social isolation. Many go insane, rocking back and forth, pacing endlessly in the cages, and engaging in repetitive motions such as back-flipping. They even engage in acts of self-mutilation, including tearing out their own hair or biting their own flesh.

Besides having their most fundamental needs and desires disregarded, primates imprisoned in laboratories are subjected to painful and traumatic procedures, including having tubes forced up their nostrils or down their throats so that experimental drugs can be pumped into them. The National Institutes of Health, it should be added, reports that animal tests have a 95% failure rate in predicting the safety and/or effectiveness of pharmaceuticals, making them pointless as well as cruel.

Rhesus monkeys are given infectious diseases and then used as test subjects for experimental vaccines. Even though decades of these experiments on primates have failed to produce effective vaccines for humans, monkeys are still infected with HIV-like diseases that cause them to suffer acute weight loss, major organ failure, breathing problems, and neurological disorders before they die excruciatingly painful deaths or are killed.

In recent experiments conducted by the military, primates were exposed to anthrax and infected with botulism and bubonic plague. In archaic chemical casualty training exercises, squirrel monkeys were poisoned with nerve agents that caused them to convulse, even though human-patient simulators exist and provide more effective training.

Monkeys are torn from their mothers in order to cause psychological trauma and examine the harm that results. After 50 years of these studies, don’t we know enough already about the effects of maternal deprivation?

In invasive brain experiments, monkeys have holes drilled into their skulls, metal restraints screwed into their heads, and electrodes inserted into their brains. Experimenters at Columbia University caused strokes in baboons by removing their left eyeballs and using the empty eye sockets to clamp critical blood vessels leading to their brains. Some animals have portions of their brains destroyed or removed to impair their cognitive function or cripple them. These sensitive, intelligent animals then have their bodies immobilized in restraint chairs and their heads bolted into place as they are forced to perform a variety of behavioral tasks while their brain activity is recorded. In order to coerce the monkeys to cooperate, they are sometimes deprived of water for up to 24 hours at a time. When the experiments conclude, most of the animals are killed and their brains are removed and dissected.

Experiments on primates, like those performed on any animal, are cruel, painful, and ultimately deadly. Some primates differ in DNA from humans by only 3%. You could say they are our closest relatives on this planet. So why do we insist on torturing and killing them?

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

Animal Cruelty Alert – Check Your Coconut Milk Label

 More and more compassionate people are choosing plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk because they don’t want to support cruelty to animals. These alternative milks, including almond, soy, oat, walnut, and others, are all easy to find, delicious, and cruelty free. But if coconut milk is your choice, there is something you must know. Recent investigations have revealed that one of the world’s major suppliers of coconuts, Thailand, is packing cruelty into every crate of coconuts. Ninety-nine percent of the coconuts harvested in that country are being picked by monkey slave labor – terrified, young pig-tailed macaques who are kept chained, abusively trained, and forced to climb trees to pick coconuts. Because of this, many retailers and food companies are now refusing to buy milk, meat, flour, and oil derived from Thai coconuts.    

Coconuts from other parts of the world, including Brazil, Columbia, India, the Philippines, and Hawaii, are harvested using willing human tree-climbers, tractor-mounted hydraulic elevators, rope or platform systems, or ladders. Coconut water typically comes from coconuts grown on dwarf trees, including the Nam Hom variety, so harvesting them doesn’t require anyone, human or non-human, to climb to great heights. 
In Thailand, the pig-tailed macaques are illegally abducted from their families and homes when they’re just babies. They’re fitted with rigid metal collars and kept chained or tethered, or locked inside cramped and filthy cages with no shelter from the rain. Denied the ability to move around, socialize, or do anything else that makes their lives worth living, these intelligent animals soon exhibit behavior indicative of extreme stress, endlessly pacing and circling. Monkeys who try to free or defend themselves have their canine teeth pulled.

These captive monkeys are forced to learn how to perform difficult tasks, such as twisting heavy coconuts until they fall off the trees from a great height. Tethered by the neck with a metal collar, they are forced to climb up and down trees and collect between 1,000 and 1,600 coconuts per day; a skilled human can pick about 80. Sometime the monkeys grow so tired ofrom picking coconuts that they faint. Those who fall from the 50-foot trees and are injured are no longer useful to the coconut industry; they are killed.

To earn more money off the captive monkeys, trainers at Thailand’s so-called “monkey schools” force their prisoners to participate in circus-style shows by riding bicycles, shooting basketballs, and performing other confusing and demeaning tricks in front of paying visitors.

Increasing numbers of consumers are speaking with their wallets, and retailers are listening. US supermarket chains Giant Food, Food Lion, Stop & Shop, and retailers like Bed, Bath, & Beyond, World Market, Walgreens, and Duane Reade, have pledged not to stock coconut food and drink of Thai origin. If you’re reading this in the UK, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose, Co-op, and Boots have done the same. Retailers in Germany and the Netherlands have joined in the pledge. Worldwide, more than 17,000 stores now refuse to buy any coconut products derived from monkey labor.

If you buy coconut milk, oil, flour, meat, or other products, be sure to check the country of origin of what you buy. If it’s from Thailand, don’t buy it. There is a good chance the purchase price is supporting animal cruelty. 

As a shopping guide, the following companies affirm that the products they sell DO NOT derive from coconuts picked by monkeys:

Amy & Brian


Aunt Patty’s


Artisana Organics

Better Body Foods

Big Tree Farms

Califia Farms

Carrington Farms

Coco Luxe Life (Australia)

Coconut Magic (Australia)

Coconut Secret


Dr. Bronner’s

Earth Circle Organics

Earth Conscious

Harmless Harvest

La Tourangelle Artisan Oils

Maison Orphee

Naked Coconuts

Native Pacific “Banaban” (Australia)


Ojio (Ultimate Superfoods)

Sanso-Boeki LLC (Japan)

So Delicious


Spectrum Organics

3 Buddhas Coconut Water

Trader Joe’s

Tropical Traditions

Vita Coco