Demand for the world’s most expensive coffee is on the rise, and is leading to increased cases of animal cruelty, World Animal Protection says.
Civet coffee or Kopi Luwak as it is known in Indonesia, is produced across the island of Bali by civet cats. According to World Animal Protection, the cats are poached from the wild and kept in cramped barren cages to produce gourmet coffee for visiting tourists.
“Civets are highly active nocturnal animals that are poached from the wild and kept in cramped cages simply to draw in visiting tourists who are curious to know how civet coffee is made,” said Wildlife researcher, Dr Neil D’Cruze at World Animal Protection.
“When tourists see the caged civets it helps to convince them that they are drinking genuine real civet coffee as part of their tour. Sadly, many tourists are blind to the cruelty associated with caged civet coffee and even queue up to take a photo to share on social media.”
Researchers from World Animal Protection have discovered that more than 16 different civet coffee plantations have emerged along one popular tourist highway of Gianyar and Bangli in Bali in the past five years alone.
The study, released on 30 April, found that the 16 new plantations were all intended for international tourists visiting Bali. Fourteen of the 16 plantations produced the caged civet coffee on-site, and the two plantations that did not produce caged coffee on-site confirmed that they kept civets in cages purely as a tourist attraction to illustrate to tourists how the coffee is made. It involves the civet cat digesting coffee cherries before its faeces are collected, finished, and sold as Kopi Luwak.
The distinctive tasting coffee can cost up to 100 $USD (approximately $130) for a single cup and is already popular with coffee drinkers across Europe and the United States.
World Animal Protection claims this high-end pricing has turned farming civet cats for coffee into “an enslavement industry”. Its press release states that the animals are kept in cramped cages where wire floors cut into their feet causing them physical and mental distress. World Animal Protection says many of the civet coffee farmers are uneducated on how to care for their animals and the civets are often ill or die, all in the name of making coffee.
World Animal Protection first uncovered the cruelty associated with caged civet coffee in 2013. As a result, at least 13 retailers – including well-known brands such as Harrods and Selfridges in the UK and Simon Lévelt in the Netherlands – took civet coffee off their shelves or agreed to further investigate.
“Detecting cruel civet coffee remains a constant challenge because of the difficulty in distinguishing between beans from caged or wild civet cats. However, if tourists see civets in cages as part of their tour this is a clear indication that unnecessary animal abuse is involved,” said Dr. Jan Schmidt from World Animal Protection, Joint Author of the study.
World Animal Protection is calling for tourists to avoid these cruel caged civet coffee plantations when on holiday.
Any tourists tempted by the novelty should only choose cage-free civet coffee. Unlike caged civet cats, World Animal Protection says the cage-free option is good for wild animals, good for conservation, good for coffee connoisseurs, and good for rural communities who can continue to generate an income from tourists.