AUSTRALIA - It's revered for its flavour and rarity, but animal rights’ activists have branded a special brew made from animal droppings as “crap coffee."
Increasing demand for kopi luwak has been blamed for the rise in “Asian palm civet” farms where catlike creatures are force fed coffee berries that are then harvested upon excretion. Selling for $200 to $400 a kilogram, or about $50 a cup, the coffee was originally considered a rare delicacy but the market has now grown to commercial proportions in Indonesia and the Philippines.
As a result the little civets are being treated like battery hens, confined to filthy cages and fed far more berries than would ever be natural for them in the wild. Undercover video footage taken by investigators from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia shows the civets exhibiting neurotic behaviour such as spinning, bar-biting and head bobbing, as a result of their confinement.
Claire Fryer from PETA Australia said she was sure anyone buying the coffee would be concerned about its origins.
“It would be nearly impossible to sustain a viable (kopi luwak) enterprise by collecting the beans from civet faeces in the wild,” said Ms Fryer. “We know some of the beans are still being marketed as “wild sourced” but that is unlikely to be the case.”
She said the PETA investigators found entire villages in Indonesia and the Philippines involved in the farming of Asian palm civets, which was largely unregulated. “One farmer explained that generally the civets are kept for a maximum of three years then released back into the wild but many would not survive,” Ms Fryer said. “They’re suffering a lot for a cup of coffee.”
Wildlife protection laws in Indonesia and the Philippines were “weak and difficult to enforce”, she said.
“Coffee farmers are looking to produce the most amount of coffee in the cheapest way possible,” said Ms Fryer.
“That involves keeping civets in cages and feeding them a steady diet of coffee berries when they would normally eat a variety of things in the wild. It can actually make them very sick.”
The PETA investigation was undertaken as a result of complaints from Australian tourists in Bali, who raised concerns about the animals’ treatment. The Australian Coffee School which is based at Southport on the Gold Coast, no longer stocks the bean.
The News.com.au/ Oct. 17, 2014
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