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Animal Abuse Rumored at Civet Coffee Farms

Animal Abuse Rumored at Civet Coffee Farms

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Coffee farms that produce (the super expensive) civet coffee are rumored to have questionable animal conditions

The practice that is rapidly expanding in Asia has been compared to conditions of battery chicken farms.

New reports surrounding one of the world’s most expensive beverages are beginning to reveal the true cost of the coffee’s production (and we’re not talking about monetary value). Kopi luwak, better known as civet coffee, is harvested from the waste of Asian palm civets, which are small, catlike mammals primarily found in Southeast Asia. (It's not the same as the similarly pricey "elephant dung" coffee.) The process, however, is less surprising than the steep price attributed to the coffee, which sells for around $230 per pound and has been sold in London for more than $100 per cup. And it’s the price tag that has prompted many to go to questionable lengths to procure the digested coffee beans, raising questions of the civets’ safety.

While initial civet coffee bi-products were taken only from civets in the wild, many animal welfare groups, like Traffic of Southeast Asia, are questioning whether these civet farms have treated the animals ethically. These claims include practices of confining and isolating the civets into cramped, undersized cages and feeding them on a diet of coffee berries, which do not provide the animals with proper nutrients. The species is not endangered, but animal conservations groups are worried at the growing rate of civet mortality due to the increase of civet farms. The practice that is rapidly expanding in Asia has been compared to conditions of battery chicken farms, and many are greatly concerned for the safety of the animals. “It would put people off their coffee if they knew,” said Chris Shepherd, deputy regional director of Traffic.

Civet coffee: why it's time to cut the crap

I am today launching a campaign (pdf) aimed at ending an industry that I created. That trade is in kopi luwak, AKA civet coffee – otherwise known as "wolf", "cat", and "crap" coffee, and the most expensive coffee in the world.

Over the past 20 years Kopi Luwak has become the ultimate bling coffee, a celebrity in its own right, stocked by every aspiring speciality retailer worldwide, and appearing on CNN News, Oprah, and The Bucket List (a Hollywood film with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, no less).

To my regret, I was the one who started it all .

I first read a description of kopi luwak buried in a short paragraph in a 1981 copy of National Geographic Magazine. Ten years later, in 1991, as coffee director of Taylors of Harrogate, I was the first person to import kopi luwak into the west – a single kilogramme. I didn't sell it through the company, but thought, perhaps naively, that its quirky, faintly off-putting origins from a wild animal roaming Indonesian coffee estates might be of interest to the local newspaper and radio in Yorkshire where the company was based. It proved to be so much bigger than that – national news, TV and radio fell over themselves to cover it. Kopi luwak put Taylors – and me – on the map.

Genuine Indonesian kopi luwak is collected from the droppings of a wild cat-like animal called the luwak (the common palm civet, Paraxorus Hermaphroditus), a shy, solitary nocturnal forest animal that freely prowls nearby coffee plantations at night in the harvest season, eating the choicest ripe coffee cherries. It can't digest the stones – or coffee beans – of the cherry, so craps them out along with the rest of its droppings. The beans are collected by farm workers. Cleaned and washed, they have acquired a unique and highly prized taste from their passage through the luwak's digestive tract and the anal scent glands they use for marking their territory. Being wild, hard to collect, variable in age and quality, and very rare, kopi luwak is not a commercially viable crop, but just an interesting coffee curiosity. That's why I bought some.

But nowadays, it is practically impossible to find genuine wild kopi luwak – the only way to guarantee that would be to actually follow a luwak around all night yourself, one experienced coffee trader told me. Today, kopi luwak mainly comes from caged wild luwaks, often kept in appalling conditions. A Japanese scientist recently claimed to have invented a way of telling whether kopi luwak is fake or genuine. He'd have been better off inventing a way of telling whether the beans come from wild or caged animals.

A luwak is kept in a cage to be shown to tourists at a coffee plantation in Bali, Indonesia. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Coffee companies around the world still market kopi luwak along the lines of that original quirky story involving a wild animal's digestive habits, many claiming that only 500 kilogrammes are collected a year, a scarcity that justifies its huge retail pricetag (usually between $200-400 a kilo, sometimes more). In fact, although it's impossible to get precise figures, I estimate that the global production – farmers in India, Vietnam, China and the Philippines have all jumped on the bandwagon, too – is at least 50 tonnes, possibly much more. One single Indonesian farm claims to produce 7,000kg a year from 240 caged civets.

So kopi luwak is now rarely wild: it's industrialised. Sounds disgusting? It is. The naturally shy and solitary nocturnal creatures suffer greatly from the stress of being caged in proximity to other luwaks, and the unnatural emphasis on coffee cherries in their diet causes other health problems too they fight among themselves, gnaw off their own legs, start passing blood in their scats, and frequently die.

Wild luwaks – the trapping of which is supposed to be strictly controlled in Indonesia – are caught by poachers, caged and force-fed coffee cherries in order to crap out the beans for the pleasure of the thousands who have been conned into buying this "incredibly rare" and very expensive "luxury" coffee.

The kopi luwak trade makes big bucks, and it attracts big-spending consumers. For example, if you're struggling to find a suitable present for your friendly neighbouring Russian oligarch's birthday, how about buying a 24-carat-gold foil bag of Terra Nera for £6,500 at Harrods? It won't be Indonesian kopi luwak you're buying, but one of the numerous other crap coffees that have now sprung up worldwide – Thai elephants, Brazilian jacu birds, and Bonobo monkeys have all been press-ganged into servicing consumers' insatiable desire for the weird and ostensibly wonderful.

A caged luwak on a civet farm just outside Surabaya, Indonesia. Photograph:

In the case of Harrods, its latest variant is produced by the Peruvian uchunari, a long-snouted Andean animal about the same size as a luwak. Naturally, it's supposed to come from well-treated animals, be incredibly rare, and – until the next absurd luwak alternative comes along – is now the most expensive coffee in the world.

As all these bewildering developments seem to have sprung from my original humble purchase, I feel as if long ago I must have inadvertently put my finger on the pulse of some monstrous zeitgeist, a grotesque cancer that constantly mutates into yet more vile and virulent forms. I'm fully expecting celebrity-digested designer crap coffee to be next down the line. One way for former stars to revitalise a flagging film career, I suppose, or perhaps for a Turner prizewinning artist to comment on the vacuity of our consume-at-all-costs age.

Come to think of it, perhaps I could actually do the digesting myself? It would be an appropriate conclusion to my complicity in the rise and fall of this utterly preposterous, utterly hideous trade.

Tony Wild is a coffee consultant and author of Coffee: A Dark History

World’s Priciest Coffee Marred by Abuse Allegations

Civet coffee was described as the “rarest beverage in the world” in the 2007 film "The Bucket List," and it retails for $105 a cup in London — but a less-than-glamorous scandal may be brewing for the drink

A civet cat in a cage at a market in Guangzhou, in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, in 2002


Civet coffee, or kopi luwak, was described as the “rarest beverage in the world” in the 2007 film The Bucket List, and it retails for £70 ($105) a cup in London, but a less-than-glamorous scandal may be brewing for the drink. The globe’s most expensive java, which is made from the feces of catlike mammals called Asian palm civets, is raising concern among animal-welfare organizations, the Guardian reports.

Producers of kopi luwak, based primarily in Indonesia, are facing accusations of “horrific” abuse against the civets, who are kept in cages and fed a diet comprising almost exclusively coffee berries in order to produce a usable excrement. The creation of the predigested coffee has transformed a small rural trade into an intensive farming industry, the Guardian notes.

The reporter from the British paper visited a café on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and discovered a female civet confined to a tiny cage in the back of the shop. The Guardian also found the creature’s two young offspring in a separate cramped enclosure, as well as 20 other civets in concealed cages on the roof of the building.

According to the paper, animal-welfare groups believe comparable civet “farms” are cropping up across Southeast Asia and creating a serious ethical problem. As of now, tens of thousands of the animals are likely cooped up in cages and forced to live on the unwholesome berry diet. Although Asian palm civets, called luwak in Indonesian, are not endangered, a similar species called the binturong is also used for kopi luwak and has been classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“The conditions are awful, much like battery chickens,” Chris Shepherd, deputy regional director of the conservation group Traffic in Southeast Asia, told the Guardian. “The civets are taken from the wild and have to endure horrific conditions. They fight to stay together, but they are separated and have to bear a very poor diet in very small cages.”

Shepherd said the conservation risk comes from the high mortality rate of some civet species, as those figures are “spiraling out of control.” He noted that there is little public awareness about how kopi luwak is made.

“It would put people off their coffee if they knew,” Shepherd said.

As of now, civet coffee — which has been praised for its smooth, sweet taste — boasts an export price as high as $230 per lb., the Guardian points out.

Some of the drink’s producers have tried to distance themselves from the abuse allegations. Animalcoffee, which describes itself as a “small boutique roastery” in Indonesia, says its kopi luwak comes from wild civets and it does “not farm or cultivate civets under any circumstances.”

According to the New York Times, there are no available statistics regarding civet coffee’s share of Southeast Asia’s broader coffee industry, but locals have expressed concerns that fake and low-quality versions of kopi luwak have entered the market in a big way.

The Science of Dung Coffee: is it really that good?

The opinions whether this coffee is really worth the horrendous amount of money, are still divided. Some say it’s the best, smoothest, richest cup of joe they’ve ever tried. Others claim it tastes just like your usual well-brewed coffee.

But all agree on one thing: the animal poop coffee is definitely one of the strangest inventions of the coffee industry, there’s no doubt about it!

So, what is it all about? Is there really a whole science behind it? Why is poop coffee so special?

Well, if we omit the whole process of poop coffee being made, there are some key points that make this coffee what it is. In its core, it’s different from other coffees because of the process the beans have gone through before ending up in your cup.

It’s all about the fermentation process, which coffee cherries and beans are exposed to in the animal’s digestive tract. These include digestive enzymes, saliva, fluids, etc.

In fact, there are many who claim that poop coffee (especially Kopi Luwak) comes with a number of health benefits that extend beyond the plain classic coffee benefits:

  • Doesn’t cause any stomach issues because it’s less acidic
  • It can protect from individual cancers
  • With its antibacterial properties, it should help to improve the health of your teeth with minimal staining (compared to standard coffee)
  • Boosts your mood naturally
  • Soothes painful headaches and migraines

Now, I haven’t found any official research that would fully support these claims, so I can’t say whether these are true or not. It may be a consequence of a popularity boom.

Anyway, the coffee beans are changed once they come into contact with the digestive system of the animals. They are less acidic than the standard coffee beans and they are less bitter. What’s more, the flavor is somewhat changed as well. In the long run, these factors can greatly contribute to your daily coffee habits.

But, the methods involved in the process of making this type of coffee aren’t always all sunshine and rainbows (see more below on caged civets). That’s why there has already been some experimentation on how to make the same quality of civet coffee but without all the civets.

Hopefully, the science and its experiments will one day give us the same level of coffee quality without the actual poop and animal cruelty. At the same time, the coffee will be more affordable and then we’ll be able to decide whether it really is a cup of wonder or not.

So what’s the problem with civet coffee?

The problem with Kopi Luwak coffee is that it’s rarely actually wild. As you can imagine, finding free-range Kopi Luwak is a labor-intensive task, something not very friendly to a business’ bottom line.

Image credit: Shankar S., Flickr, CC 2.0

As a result, the most common process involves removing civets from the wild and keeping them in tiny cages on coffee plantations. According to researchers, these coffee plantations universally fail to meet animal welfare standards in areas like hygiene, shelter, and mobility. Civets are nocturnal, shy animals, and many coffee plantations allow tourists to view them in their cages. They may also be force-fed the cherries or kept on uncomfortable wire surfaces. And the civets’ restrictive coffee-only diet can lead to malnutrition and other health issues.

Another issue is that many coffees sold as Kopi Luwak aren’t authentic. With prices for this specialty coffee so high, it’s not surprising that coffee sellers would want to cash in – whether or not they have access to civets.

Civet in a cage | Image credit: Stefan Magdalinski, Flickr, CC 2.0

People around the world are paying exorbitant prices — and perhaps risking their lives — for the world’s most expensive and cruel drink: cat poop coffee. While it may sound like a silly gimmick, the kopi luwak industry is a very serious business, with a single pound of coffee selling for up to $600. And as a recent investigation from Lady Freethinker (LFT) reveals, the novelty has given rise to a profit-driven tourist industry that puts humans in close contact with civet cats — the same species notoriously prevalent at China’s wet markets and responsible for transmitting the SARS virus to humans. Known to carry a host of zoonotic diseases, civet cats pulled from the wild to entertain tourists could very well be breeding the next pandemic.

Also called kopi luwak, the coffee is made by harvesting coffee cherries digested and excreted by Asian palm civets, which are actually not cats but more closely related to mongooses. These little critters naturally ferment swallowed coffee beans with protease enzymes, and some people claim the final product is smoother and less acidic than its non-digested counterpart.

LFT’s investigator visited multiple kopi luwak tourist traps and discovered the naturally solitary, nocturnal animals trapped in small, barren-wire cages without access to adequate food and water. Loud, gawking tourists got up close and personal with the animals, keeping them awake during the day when they’d naturally be sleeping. These “tours” are directly bookable on TripAdvisor.

Behind the scenes — in areas not freely open to the public — conditions only get worse. In one backyard farm, LFT’s investigator found caged civets, roosters, porcupines, and even dogs forced to live in cramped cages without room to freely move about. The dogs and roosters were likely headed to slaughter or a religious sacrifice.

These clear, dismal acts of animal cruelty don’t just hurt civets — they risk human lives, too. In 2003, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome — also known as SARS — infected over 8,000 people and killed more than 800 before the war on the virus ended. And scientists determined that the same animals fawned over by unsuspecting tourists are directly linked to the world’s first pandemic of the twenty-first century, when SARS most likely jumped from bat to civet to human.

“Our research has shown that the SARS coronavirus found in human victims is the same as the SARS coronavirus found in civet cats,” said Wang Ming, an official from the Guangzhou Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. “This discovery proves that civet cats are capable of spreading the SARS virus to human beings.”

Civets are also known to carry distemper, rabies, avian influenza H5N1 (bird flu), parvovirosis, Bartonella henselae (cat-scratch disease), and other diseases.
All of this is hard to stomach, and so is the diet civets are forced to eat and the implications that might have for virus shedding. Instead of a mixture of fruits, rats, mice, insects, eggs, snakes, frogs, lizards, and birds — the food sources they’d naturally choose in the wild — kopi luwak farmers feed captive civets coffee cherries, coffee cherries, and more coffee cherries.

Consuming that much caffeine evokes anxiety and boredom, which causes civets to relentlessly pace back and forth in their small cages, chew their tails down to the bone, and act aggressively toward one another.

The combination of added stress and open wounds from anxiety-induced chewing makes these farms ideal spots for the spread of viruses.

Scientific evidence suggests stressed animals are more likely to show and “shed” viruses, leading to an increased risk of “spillover,” or a virus making the jump from animals to humans.
“You can think of it like if people are stressed and have the cold sore virus,” said Professor of Wildlife Epidemiology at the Zoological Society of London Andrew Cunningham. “They will get a cold sore. That is the virus being ‘expressed.’ This can happen in [animals] too.”

This isn’t a sustainable industry, kopi luwak cannot be guaranteed cruelty-free, and the danger of disease is well-documented. People deserve to know the truth behind this torturous industry, so they can decide for themselves if caging innocent animals and putting the world at risk for another pandemic is worth an overpriced cup of Joe.

Lady Freethinker is urging travel giant TripAdvisor to end all sales of kopi luwak tours on its platform, which should encourage others to do the same. Sign the petition here and help stop this needless and dangerous cruelty.

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter ! Also, don’t forget to download the Food Monster App on iTunes –- with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest meatless, vegan, and allergy-friendly recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives One Green Planet a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting by donating!

Kopi luwak is expensive. Four ounces is about $50, and one pound is nearly $180. The reason why it is so expensive is that collecting wild civet droppings is a time sensitive and onerous task. Thus, only a small amount is gathered annually. The task of gathering civet dung requires a lot of effort because the gatherer must hunt for it. Once it is found, it must be fresh because otherwise the beans can develop fungus and become unusable. Kopi luwak is a delicacy because it is rare and only 500 kg is produced annually. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The kopi luwak market for wild cage-free civets only produces about 500 kg annually. However, the market is now industrialized. It is estimated that about 50 tons of civet poop is collected annually. According to one source, a single farm can produce 7,000 kg per annum from 240 caged civets.

Let’s do some quick math: If, 50 tons is equal to 1.6 million ounces, and every four ounces goes for approximately $50 (that’s $12.50 per ounce), multiply that by 1.6 million ounces and that’s $20 million per year! How can something rare also be mass-produced? There are no regulations in place that can officially distinguish kopi luwak from wild civet droppings verses wild caged civet droppings.

Civets are arboreal animals and they belong snoozing in the trees during the day, after foraging and hunting during the night. Captive civets are confined to battery cages, force-fed a diet of only coffee cherries and are unable to rest during the day. These territorial animals are stacked on top of one another inches apart, deprived of vitamins because of their strict diet and are in a perpetual state of distress, as seen in this video. It would be impossible to create a humane environment for caged wild civets. Firstly, they need over six square miles of territory secondly, they’re nocturnal and typically sleep in trees finally, they need to hunt and eat a diverse diet, and this can’t be done in a cage.

Cruelty is a buzz-kill and retailers are catching on. But, if that’s the case, then why is kopi luwak still being stocked on shelves in the west and sold internationally through online retailers? In a word, consumers. Unfortunately, the stigma of drinking a blinged out coffee, regardless of its cruel and unusually unclean beginnings, is high. It is the fecal consumer that will eventually kill the civet cat. If the facts of the matter can’t sway the ignorant consumer, then, let them drink scat.

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!

Cruelty in a Cup

These nocturnal animals prefer to rest in secluded tree canopies during the day. But on the farms, they were kept mostly in outdoor cages in the sunlight, with no dark, quiet spot to sleep in, adding to their misery and poor health. Some panted constantly in the heat.

Many had painful open wounds and didn’t appear to be receiving any veterinary care. They exhibited abnormal behavior such as biting their own tails and repeatedly pacing back and forth, indicating severe psychological distress.

Investigators saw one civet cat who appeared to be blind but was still being used for kopi luwak production.

The world’s most expensive coffee requires animal cruelty and could lead to the next pandemic

Founder of Lady Freethinker, a nonprofit media organization dedicated to exposing and stopping the suffering of animals, humans and the planet

This may seem hard to swallow, but the world’s most expensive coffee is made out of poop. Kopi luwak comes from coffee beans digested and excreted by the Asian palm civet, also called the civet cat or luwak, and sells for about $600 a pound.

If you wouldn’t drink “cat poop coffee” if your life depended on it—well, it just might. Civet cats, which are commonly sold at the now-infamous Chinese wildlife markets where COVID-19 is thought to have originated, are linked to a host of human diseases. Yet alarmingly, bustling tourist attractions across Bali, Indonesia, hold these animals captive for profit, reveals an investigation by my organization, Lady Freethinker.

At kopi luwak tourist traps, our investigator found these cat-like, nocturnal mammals locked in small, barren-wire cages and kept awake during the day by noisy, gawking crowds. Allowing hundreds of people to interact with stressed, potentially disease-carrying animals is bad enough, but behind closed doors, the problem gets much worse.

Though not accessible to the general public, the farms that produce most of the coffee sold at these attractions are the source of torture for the captive animals and could be catastrophic for human health.

At one backyard farm, our investigator discovered caged civets, roosters, porcupines and even dogs stacked on top of each other with barely enough room to move. The roosters and dogs were likely headed to slaughter, or possibly fated for religious sacrifice.

These unsanitary conditions are particularly concerning because civets are linked to the first pandemic of the 21st century: severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which is thought to have jumped from bat to civet to human.

In 2003, SARS infected “over 8,000 people worldwide and killed almost 800,” before the virus was contained. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has already stolen more lives than that. These deaths might have been prevented had we learned from our past mistakes to realize that caging animals can result in the spread of viruses and can lead to killing humans.

“Our research has shown that the SARS coronavirus found in human victims is the same as the SARS coronavirus found in civet cats,” said Wang Ming, an official from the Guangzhou Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. “This discovery proves that civet cats are capable of spreading the SARS virus to human beings.”

These animals, who are nocturnal and rarely come into contact with humans in the wild, are also known to carry distemper, rabies, avian influenza H5N1 (bird flu), parvovirosis, Bartonella henselae (cat-scratch disease) and others. Worse yet, stressed animals are more likely to “express” their illnesses.

“Human activities are causing this,” said Andrew Cunningham, professor of wildlife epidemiology at the Zoological Society of London, speaking of bats and their relation to coronavirus. “We believe that the impact of stress on bats would be very much as it would be on people. It would allow infections to increase and to be excreted—to be shed.”

“You can think of it like if people are stressed and have the cold sore virus, they will get a cold sore. That is the virus being ‘expressed.’ This can happen in bats too,” Cunningham added.

Bats aren’t the only animals who express viruses—all animals do. And civets are subjected to extremely stressful environments. They’re locked in tiny cages all day, kept awake when they’d naturally be sleeping, and force-fed coffee cherries. Their inadequate diets do not help fend off illnesses, and the overdose of caffeine stimulates these poor creatures into panicked frenzies.

The kopi luwak industry is bringing civets, with all the diseases they potentially carry, and humans close together in unnatural conditions—a perfect recipe for a cataclysmic cocktail. Was the global SARS outbreak that took place less than 20 years ago so easily forgotten?

For travel giant TripAdvisor, the dangers of civet farms aren’t hazardous enough to stop selling tickets to these kopi luwak “tours,” which are easily bookable on their website.

When it comes to the civet trade, animal suffering could turn into human tragedy in the blink of an eye. Not only is this industry deplorable from an animal welfare perspective, but it could also be silently breeding the next pandemic.

As long as consumers are willing to pay to drink kopi luwak and participate in tours, civet cats will continue to suffer due to this needless novelty industry—and one day, the world could pay a hefty price for this.

Civet Cat Poop Coffee, the World's Most Expensive, Brews Up Animal Rights Controversy

World's most expensive coffee has a controversial history.

Indonesian Civet Cat Poop Coffee Brews Up Controversy

— -- The most expensive coffee in the world is harvested from a place where the sun don’t shine.

It’s an exotic delicacy called Kopi Luwak, made from coffee beans found in the droppings of the Indonesian civet cat. A single serving can go for as much as $90 in the US.

Historically, civets roamed free on coffee plantations, feeding on the coffee cherries at night. After the animals eat the flesh of the ripe coffee cherries, their digestive system apparently imparts a smooth body and aroma to the beans, which emerge whole on the other side. Their droppings are then collected, cleaned, roasted and brewed for coffee.

But these days, the vast majority of civet farms cage their animals to maximize production.

There have been several investigations into the treatment of captive civet cats on Kopi Luwak farms. Critics say keeping these animals isolated in cages, eating only coffee cherries is cruel, and leads to erratic behavior and self-inflicted injuries.

The Indonesian Civet Coffee Association acknowledges past animal cruelty but now says it has set minimum standards for raising civets humanly in captivity.

In 2013, PETA released a video of civets in captivity secretly filmed on various coffee farms in Indonesia and the Philippines. In the video, the civets are kept in small cages. They bob and sway, bite and scratch themselves and run around in circles.

ABC News traveled to a civet farm in Bali, Indonesia, and filmed similar conditions.

Watch the video: How Civets Suffer for Tourists Coffee in Bali (August 2022).