Where their star monkey is “Living on a pile of garbage” is simply the front yard of his handler’s muddy shack. I drive past their coconut husk piles regularly. The monkeys living quarters are pretty much the same as the worker, and the workers children.
These guys own one monkey each, maybe three if it’s a “family business” and they are breeding, and one truck. They visit the plantations and properties as daily contractors, and might paid 700-1000 THB (US$20-28) per day for their specialised skill if they are lucky.
The humans that pick up, load and strip the fallen coconuts get paid half that.
The monkey-trainer has it a bit better off than the day-laborer and might be rich enough to afford a TV in his bamboo bedroom, but you’d have to shift at least two steps up the supply chain, past the warehousing and aggregation, through the raw delivery system, to find the management of the processing plants that can afford cement driveways and houses with actual glass windows.
The area of Thailand where I live is considered one of the greater coconut-producing regions, and although it’s possible that some monkey-farming cartel exists somewhere that operates at a grander scale, everywhere we’ve seen on the ground is farming at this scale.
By pretty much any metric, these harvesters are cash-poor.
So it’s just a multilayer shit sandwich of exploitation upon exploitation?
This whole thing just makes it all the more clear how much humanity needs to modernize agriculture so that it is sustainable and safe for everyone. We just need to get the rich countries who benefit from all of this to pay for it.
And again, what is wrong with demanding humane working conditions? Is that really such a terrible thing that we should sneer at? FFS, human beings and animals deserve to be treated in a humane way, and the fact that some people roll their eyes at this and wring their hands, and pretend that it’s beyond repair is pretty fucking disturbing.
“Humans live on a garbage pile, so it’s good enough for the monkeys” is not a great come back. How about NO ONE live on a garbage pile?
Maybe we should fix that problem instead of having corporations profit off both human and animal misery? We should not blame people for making the best out of a shitty situation, but we should not let corporations off the hook for their roll in creating and exacerbating misery on this planet.
You clearly are pretending to have missed that I was replying directly to a post that claimed it was impossible to be in the monkey-handling business and be poor.
I offered a counter-example from direct observation. I mentioned children directly to highlight the poverty that this first-world discussion about boycotting a product sourced from a subsistance farmer may be missing.
And my tone is: sure, target the corporations to improve things, but not by jumping to criticising the real workers on the ground who, and this is my point, don’t have it good, and don’t have much alternative individually.
I do appreciate your pointing out that the real exploiters are much further removed than the people actually handling the monkeys directly.
As for tone, I do think that you will find most of us in agreement that the real exploiters are the ones deserving of criticism. Thank you for pointing out that the monkey handlers themselves are still very much at/near the bottom of the food chain of exploitation.
Sure, it is. I am just offering context, not defending it.
If anything, I’m trying to defend the guy on the bottom, the demonized monkey-man, who is treating the monkey as one of his family and as best he can.
Comparing what the individual monkey teams can do against industrialized farming is (for now) a long stretch.
You’d have to clear-fell and terraform the swamps and jungles to get a basket crane in there, and even then be much less efficient. Even that doesn’t address the small homestead and residential backyard trees.
Human tree-climbers, even without safety gear, are many times slower.
Until Boston Dynamics can increase its beasts dexterity and drop the cost of its units down to within reach on the local man with a truck, it’s gonna be tricky to keep up the harvest and the income of the small farmers whose land it’s growing on.
Flying drones are a no-go - coconuts are damn hard to wrench off.
Imagine you are poor and have inherited the coconut harvesting business, you can’t afford a bucket truck, are you sending your workers, relatives and kids up a tree to potentially fall to their death?
Note the use of “workers.” Definitely pretty far up the chain from your individual monkey handler. Not poor, especially in Thailand, by your own statements. That’s what was the oxymoron: poor person inherits coconut harvesting business.
I take the blame for that misunderstanding. I saw “inherited the coconut harvesting business” and assumed that it was referring to the owners of the plantations while also assuming that the same people who own the plantations also own the monkeys.
It was fully a mistaken assumption on my part, and I do not believe that anyone else in this thread was making it.
I’m having a really hard time telling if you’re trying to praise or condemn this. Your description sounds pretty damn bleak and depressing to me, yet it also seems to have a kind of “look on the bright side” slant to it.
You may be imagining mega-corps where everything down to the land and the water rights is owned by the company whose name is on the box in the supermarket, (Dole or similar?) but that’s not it at all.
I see the houses and the vehicles of the first three different entities every week. I don’t see #4 as that is in another region, far out of reach of the team that is in the harvesting business.
The harvesting business literally is one family with a monkey and a truck. Inheriting the monkey and the truck is what happens. They may employ a few workers, who are below the monkey in terms of importance. The monkey handler really is the owner (or son of the owner) of that independent business.
[ As “independent” as any farmer who has to sell to any price-setting oligopoly can be. Happily, coconuts are also pretty easy to sell to other markets directly, as they have many other uses besides factory processing, and some go direct-to-store ].
The harvesters are definitely not employees of the corporations.
They are called in to different farms and properties as needed, and deliver to a big pile at another location run by another company with a bigger truck. I don’t think anyones delivers pick-up sized loads to the factory directly.
The big truck takes the aggregate to the processing factory, and that’s probably where the seasonal price is set. I guess it’s plausible that a factory may sometimes operate a drop-off-depot and trucking themselves, but I’ve not seen that reflected in the branding.
That is simply the scale at which I see things happen here in that industry in Thailand.
On the ground, here in Thailand, this year, in Surat Thani province, if you inherit a coconut harvesting business - yes, you are probably pretty poor.
Unlikely to even own your own land, so poorer than both the landowner and the aggregator on either side of you in the supply chain.
Not saying that there may not be more closely integrated supply chains in one or two places out there, but they don’t seem to be the dominant model. Due to the whims of activists like PETA there may even be an advantage to keeping things like this - with the tree-climbers far enough removed for the international companies to maintain plausible deniability or cite how impossible it is to monitor the sourcing of each nut.
I’m not saying any of this is good or bad - I’m just describing the actual businesses as observed on the ground.
Fair, because I’m not.
Most of my input here is, to the best I can, recounting direct observations of what we choose to call “fact”. I’m saying “this is what I see happening”, and I’ve tried not to go so far as even saying “it is what it is”.
There are sure to be some farms which don’t match up exactly to what I’ve seen, and my anecdata can only be taken in that context. I try to talk in E-Prime when disagreements arise, and that’s why my paragraphs are so long. Just consider all statements to have the implicit “as far as I have seen evidence of” added to them.
I do have opinions though, something like this:
Working monkeys aren’t treated any worse than any other working animal
Some working animals (guard dogs) and many working humans suffer more than the working monkeys in Thailand (previous post)
There is exploitation in many supply chains, sure. Lots of the exploitation comes at the expense of the disenfranchised labourers and to the advantage of the landholders and factory owners.
Neither Monkey or Monkey Handler (as practiced in Thailand in my region) are significantly either of the above.
Anthropomizing tree climbing as “slave labour” is ridiculous, unless you are making the point that “all coerced work is bad”, and include the desire to be fed and cared for as coercion.
There probably are be cases and places where deplorable abuse does happen. PETAs video crew couldn’t find any for us though.
First-world reactionary activism based on the cuteness of the animal or the prettiness of the view that don’t take into account the practicalities and lifestyles of the locals, and don’t offer a practical pathway to transition to more “acceptable” practices without negatively impacting the already-oppressed little guy, are often under-informed and way-off-target.
Living conditions in lots of places around the world are pretty shitty for lots of people. - This one, yes, I do have to just shrug at. I’ve not got a magic wand. But I don’t think that the root cause of the piles of plastic rubbish outside the local labour shacks is a local delivery service in Berlin.
^ The above are opinions, and I respect that people may disagree with opinions, and draw the lines in different places. And we can discuss that.
But really all I was trying to bring to the party was context from what I see actually happening. And that may help contextualize other peoples opinions.
Who nobody is attacking. Noting the fact that it IS a form of exploitation isn’t necessarily attacking the person doing it, it’s more about the system.
Because no one else has figured out how to harvest coconuts without monkeys in all of human history…
That seems unlikely to me. The miners are not the ones running the mining business, even if they are “private contractors”… private contractors has become just another way to hide the exploitation of the poor.
The harvester does not even own the land, then. They are probably contracted out with little say over how they conduct their work, because they likely have quotas to meet.
We used to have this in America… it was called “sharecropping” and it kept millions of Americans in poverty.
And really white washing it in your description too… This really is akin to the American system of sharecropping. The sharecropper might own some tools, but they do not own the land they work, and often those tools are being bought from the landowner in the first place on credit. This is, once again, an exploitative system from top to bottom.
They are not domesticated animals, which is part of the problem. We have a major problem with pushing into the forest, with some of the poorest people being forced into being the tip of the spear here, as they have lost other opportunities to support themselves as they pushed into the cash economy.
Which is beside the point and off-topic. This is not the the suffering olympics. We can talk about multiple things at once.
You know this, because?
It’s not the “tree climbing” that’s the problem.
The point of using wild animals (chained) in a form of labor is what they’re pointing to.
Which is really not something we can gloss over with “neutral” sounding language. Neutrality in systems of exploitation benefits the exploiter always, because it minimizes our understanding of what is actually happening.
Again, neutrality here is NOT helpful. It hurts people already being exploited, because it naturalizes that exploitation.
How is that a “bad” position to take?
I suspect that people are projecting that the monkeys want to be “fed and cared for”…
That’s a major assumption you’re making about the people here. Essentially, you are projecting onto those of us discussing this with you us being “overly emotional” and assuming that none of us understand how food gets to our table. You’re starting from the assumption, that we’re ignorant on this subject and our positions are based solely on the “aw, monkey cute, corporations BAD!” as opposed to us understanding the system and finding it odious, and then us believing that humanity CAN and MUST do better, for all people and yes all animals (even the ugly ones ). This strikes me a as a fundamentally bad faith position to assume.
Why? Why not oppose ALL oppression everywhere?
No one does, because these are not simple problems that a singular solution will fix. It does demand that we stay engaged and support efforts for change, even if very small in our own corner of the world. Just “shrugging” because YOU don’t have a singular answer misses the point of how change is ACTUALLY made. It’s by speaking out, thinking critically and compassionately about these systems, demanding change WHEN you have the power to do so.
Complex systems are far more tied together than you think. I can’t say about Germany specifically, but there is a major industry in many western nations to ship our recycling to Asia for processing, and as those systems in Asia break down, they end up in landfills, and yes, around people’s houses, as those people have been pushed to the margins to keep tourist areas nice so we can travel there, and feel like we’re “supporting the local economy” by doing so.
That’s your subjective view of what is happening though.