Video by Raffles Girls’ School on the cruelty behind kopi luwak

By Project A.W., Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary)

Hello! We are Project A.W. (Animal Welfare), a Community Problem Solving group consisting of eight Year 3 students from Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary). We aim to intensify the society’s pro-activeness towards animal cruelty so as to ensure the well-being of animals in Singapore.

Our belief is that everyone plays a crucial role in protecting animals. In this blog post, we hope to share insights on the horrors behind civet coffee production.

Some know civet coffee as the most expensive coffee, while others drink it for its exquisite taste or to appease their curiosity (arising from the high price tag). However, not many know about the suffering that goes behind it. Civets endure so much just for a handful of coffee beans and a cup of coffee. While we indulge in a cup of this beverage, these animals suffer long-term health issues. Our group truly feels for these civets. Do the reasons for civet coffee production really justify the means through which they are acquired? Can we really place our own superficial pleasure over their entire lives and well-being? We hope to spread awareness on the cruelty of civet coffee production, and to encourage the public to opt for alternatives.

We hope that our video and pamphlet will help you better understand the origins of civet coffee, and entreat you to leave with the following question:

Will I take part in civet coffee consumerism?

Pamphlet on wildlife products done by the students (page 1).

Pamphlet on wildlife products done by the students (page 1).

Pamphlet on wildlife products done by the students (page 2).

Pamphlet on wildlife products done by the students (page 2).

Link to pamphlet PDF – https://projectluwaksg.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/project-a-w-pamphlet-final.pdf

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Vet students in Bali spread the word about unethical kopi luwak

By Chloe Tan

In February 2014, Jonna Lehtinen, a primate conservationist residing in Bali, Indonesia, contacted our team about distributing our “Life Behind Bars” infographic at major tourist destinations. She helps at a local rescue centre and works with veterinary students. She is also doing independent research and public education about kopi luwak, which is largely derived from caged civets, and is very popular in Bali.

Recently, we received news that she had engaged her vet students from Udayana University in Denpasar, Bali, to distribute posters in the southern part of the island.

Vet students with the "Life Behind Bars" posters that they distributed in Bali.

Vet students with the “Life Behind Bars” posters that they distributed in Bali.

Thank you Jonna and students for spreading the word!

Calling animal welfare supporters around the world! Is kopi luwak widely sold in your country? If you would like to collaborate and help raise awareness about this cruel trade, contact our team at projectluwaksg@gmail.com!

Nanyang girls inspired to save the civets!

By Koh Fang Yun, Tan Chor Leng, Claudine & Zhang Junyue

Hello there! We are a group of three secondary 3 students from Nanyang Girls’ High School. We are collaborating with Project LUWAK Singapore to create a new poster to help spread awareness of the cruelty behind the cage-sourced kopi luwak trade.

So what spurred us on? Well, it started on 2nd May this year, when civet researcher, Weiting, came to our school for a talk. We were very much surprised that there were civets in Singapore, but what caught our attention were the means and methods of harvesting coffee beans for a cup of kopi luwak. The civets are used as tools, and they are exploited because of the demand for kopi luwak. We wanted to do something for these creatures! In the end, we chose to design posters to raise awareness of this issue.

Our poster!

Our poster!

We think most people know about kopi luwak, but it is the cruelty behind every cup that needs to be made known. The eventual design for the poster was inspired by the pictographs of different types of coffee (with so many types of coffee available, it can really be confusing!). While most coffees are a combination of espresso and milk, kopi luwak is basically the life of a civet. We intend to use this contrast to bring across our message. We have learnt a lot about civets as well during this process.

Do play a part in helping to save these beautiful civets by not drinking kopi luwak. Tell your family and friends as well.

Updates from the team – Project LUWAK in Singapore and beyond

By Chloe Tan and Gladys Chua

Since Project LUWAK Singapore was founded in October 2013, the team has taken various steps to inform the public about the plight of common palm civets in the caged-sourced kopi luwak trade. Our main outreach strategies include 1) educating merchants/cafes, 2) partnering established animal welfare organisations and 3) spreading the word through social media and public talks. We initially aimed to campaign against kopi luwak locally, but it eventually caught the attention of concerned groups and individuals overseas, and several partnerships were forged as a result. Here’s a look back at our milestones so far and also a glimpse of what’s to come!

Project LUWAK in Singapore

Launch of our infographics

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As a team leveraging heavily on the power of social media, we recruited artist Esther Wee who designed this eye-catching series of infographics. The initial launch received 130 shares!

Partnership with SPCA Singapore

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In January 2014, we linked up with SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Singapore and shared a write-up on unethically-sourced kopi luwak. The kind people at SPCA promptly published an article expressing a strong position against the trade. The webpage directs readers to our blog.

Link – http://www.spca.org.sg/animalwelfare_food_details.asp?id=760

Partnership with Project: WILD (Singapore)

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We also got in touch with Project: WILD (Singapore) who front a campaign against the use of endangered animals for human consumption. Project: WILD is a well-known presence on social media. In March 2014 they shared our infographics on their Facebook page and 104 people subsequently shared the graphics!

Link – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=783811374982188&set=a.780603065303019.1073741826.399923826704280&type=1&theater

Interview with The Online Citizen

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March 2014 was a great month for the luwaks. With the publishing of “10Q – Project LUWAK SG: Putting some serious shit in your cuppa” by The Online Citizen (TOC), a popular site dedicated to cyber activism in Singapore, outreach for our campaign bumped up several notches and also received attention from a new audience. Thanks Howard Lee from TOC for the feature!

Link – http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2014/03/10q-project-luwak-sg/

Civet talk at Nanyang Girls’ High School

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Civet researcher Xu Weiting (a.k.a. Civetgirl) spoke to 430 Secondary 3 students from Nanyang Girls’ High School on 2 May 2014. The girls enjoyed the talk and many were surprised that common palm civets can be found in Singapore! Shocked and dismayed that the kopi luwak trade is inflicting so much pain on these animals, the students paid-it-forward by featuring Project LUWAK Singapore at their school’s Open House on 24 May 2014. Posters were exhibited at the NYGH Backyard and 4 Degrees Cafe to show visitors how each of us can play a part in eliminating civet coffee farms.

Project LUWAK beyond Singapore

Partnership with SPCA Hong Kong

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By collaborating with Jeanna Cheung (SPCA Hong Kong) and Fung Tze Shan (our Singaporean friend), we managed to roll out our infographics in traditional Chinese text, in a bid to bridge the language gap and spread the word!

Linking up with conservationists in Bali, Indonesia

Jonna Lehtinen, a primate conservationist residing in Bali, contacted our team to enquire about the printing and distribution rights of our infographics. She had been interviewed by the local newspaper Bali Advertiser, targeted at expatriates and tourists, about kopi luwak and came across our resource. Jonna is engaging her students in distributing the posters featuring the infographics at various tourist destinations and restaurants in Bali. We look forward to a long-term partnership where word continues to be spread to other parts of Indonesia, such as Jakarta.

Link – http://www.bawabali.com/bawa-news/1-latest-news/217-ethics-in-a-coffee-cup-by-ibu-kat.html

Sharing by animal welfare organisations in other countries

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The power of social media also helped take our movement to other parts of Asia via SPCA Selangor and PETA Asia-Pacific. We are thankful to have friends around the globe who share the same concerns about the kopi luwak industry.

You can help too! Help us further the cause and sign the petition today: http://tinyurl.com/projectluwaksg-pledge. If you have ideas or would like to feature Project LUWAK Singapore in your page or column, feel free to email projectluwaksg@gmail.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Behind the scenes at a kopi luwak farm in Bali

By Pearlynn Sim

When I found out that my family and I were going to visit a coffee plantation in Bali, Indonesia, my first thought was that it was a ripe opportunity for some detective work. Bali, like Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, is well known for kopi luwak. I was curious to see what the tour would be like.

On the day of the tour, when we expressed interest in visiting a coffee plantation, our driver began telling us about kopi luwak excitedly – how exquisite it tastes, how unique it is and all. One of the staff at the coffee plantation then brought us around and explained the origins of kopi luwak. We were also shown civet poop with coffee beans, and how the coffee beans are processed.

Coffee beans being processed.

Coffee beans excreted by the luwaks being processed.

Following that, it was a tour of the coffee plantation. Coffee plants among other crops were pointed out and finally I saw what caused my heart to drop despite all the mental preparation.

Luwaks kept in small cages, side-by-side.

Caged civets.

Oblivious to my look of shock, we were enthusiastically introduced to the civet (or luwak) in the cage in front of us. The cage was about 6 by 8 feet. Aside from a metal bowl with water in the corner, there was nothing else. Civets are solitary and territorial animals, normally found on trees, so being in close proximity to other individuals – such as in farms – would be stressful.

In total I saw some six caged civets on the premises that visitors had access to. Two were kept separately but within sight of each other (the cages above). The other four were kept together – two in a fairly large cage and two in poor conditions (rusty and small cage). It was a cage of about 2 feet by 1.5 feet, even more cramped than what I had seen initially.

caged luwak

caged luwak

caged luwak

To find out more, I asked if the caged civets were farmed for kopi luwak. She insisted that the kopi luwak they sell are all wild-sourced. Upon asking what the civets were fed, she replied, “Fruits such as bananas and apples”.

We were then herded to a pavilion where we were allowed to taste the various coffees before purchasing the ones we liked. This excluded kopi luwak which was ‘pay-before-you-try’. We gave that a miss.

"Collected from the forest floor"?

“Collected from the forest floor”?

At the gift shop, a wide array of coffees were for sale, including kopi luwak. The sales representative was visibly disappointed at our lack of enthusiasm but tried to promote the boxes of kopi luwak which she said make good gifts.

"Collected from the forest floor"?

One brand of kopi luwak on sale (260 000 Indonesian Rupiah = approximately 30 Singapore Dollars).

While my experience suggests that this coffee plantation may be farming civets for kopi luwak, I must emphasize that I do not have any concrete evidence (and am thus not pointing fingers). This write-up was purely intended to share my experience in Bali, highlight how rampant kopi luwak is over there, and hopefully give readers some food for thought.

Wild-sourced kopi luwak is roasted from the coffee beans pooped out by wild civets which pick only the best coffee beans to supplement their diet. Farmed civets are fed a diet of only coffee beans, so without any choice in the coffee beans, would the quality not drop? Many buy this coffee on the assumption that it tastes better, but with farmed kopi luwak these days, how true is that?

Animal welfare aside, perhaps think about that if the thought of purchasing that very expensive cup of kopi luwak ever crossed your mind.

 

OWL Cafe and 10 Scotts@Grand Hyatt stop selling kopi luwak

By Mary-Ruth Low

Disclaimer: We would like to emphasize that credit for the cessation of sales of kopi luwak at the aforementioned coffee establishments are due to the excellent work of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA Asia), and brought to attention by the Shin Min Daily News reporter.

Starting a campaign is no easy task and many a time, news surrounding the cause in question tends to be on the less-than-cheerful side. Once in a while, however, we hear stories that inspire and encourage one to press on and spread the word. In our case, it was the news that two prominent coffee retailers—OWL Café and 10 Scotts @Grand Hyatt—had decided to pull kopi luwak off their menu.

On the 25th of October 2013, Shin Min Daily News新明日报》reported that both OWL Café and 10 Scotts @Grand Hyatt had stopped sales of kopi luwak. This piece of news was received with many cheers! Good job, OWL Café and 10 Scotts! Prior to this, OWL Café had sold ‘100% Authentic Kopi Luwak’ ($18.90) as its signature coffee. At 10 Scotts, their listing of kopi luwak ($68) was accompanied by a detailed description of its history and origins.

According to the article, all restaurants and cafés in Grand Hyatt no longer serve kopi luwak as they value sustainability and food responsibility. OWL Café had decided to stop serving it altogether after discussion at the managerial level. We hope this will send a message to other coffee retailers in rethinking their values and sustainability practices in serving this particular beverage.

A member of our team recently popped in to OWL Café for a bite and was greeted by the following sticker upon opening the menu:

OWL Cafe_menu sticker

Over at 10 Scotts, Mr. Guillaume Delemarle, Director of Food & Beverage, Grand Hyatt Singapore had this to say:

“We stopped serving Kopi Luwak in the hotel after we learned about the cruelty associated with using civets for the production of this specialty coffee.

Our food philosophy within Hyatt focuses on responsible and sustainable food options for guests which are good for the communities, environment and people. Therefore we discussed the background of civet coffee internally and decided commonly to remove this from the menu.”

We are in the midst of writing to local cafés and suppliers to raise awareness of the cruelty behind kopi luwak as well as encourage them to pass on the message to their patrons. One way you can help would be let us know (projectluwaksg@gmail.com) if you chance upon a café or an advertisement promoting kopi luwak. Even better yet, talk to the managers of the café and ask if they know how kopi luwak is produced. If they are willing to find out more, refer them to this website! With the continued engagement with stakeholders and increasing awareness of the treatment of luwaks, we hope for more good news soon. Indeed, it is not too idealistic to hope that we can eventually quell kopi luwak demand and ultimately end local kopi luwak sales.

Let’s make this work! Find out how you can help at https://projectluwaksg.wordpress.com/support/.

Caged civets in Vietnam

By Gladys Chua

According to The Economist, “Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee producer, but also one of the most obscure.” Until recently, little has been known to the wider public, about the use and abuse of civets in the production of one of the priciest coffee beans around the world.

The lure of ca phe chon – novelty and prestige

Self-proclaimed coffee enthusiasts, such as Mr Hung, co-founder of Legend Revived (a luxury brand in Ho Chi Minh City that exports coffee beans to Britain and Norway at a hefty sum of $500 per kilogram), insists on the supposedly more exquisite, fragrant and exotic origins of ca phe chon (Vietnamese for ‘civet-cat coffee’) in his line of business.

To businessmen, it seems that manufacturing coffee was only one aspect of the trade; sales and marketing of their brand of coffee was an integral part of increasing demand and market value of said products. It is then apparent that businessmen in the trade do not just sell coffee; they leverage on the existence of social ladders to market aspirations, acceptance and the acquisition of goods to raise one’s social standing. Presently, vendors are known to make a fortune flogging fake civet coffee to travellers and locals.

A university student in Ho Chi Minh City observes that the thirst for social acceptance and prestige overwrites the pursuit of authentic civet coffee, since the imitation is increasingly something locals settle for simply because it costs much less. The desire could be interpreted as a response to the lure of global marketing, and for acquiring items that are markers in an upwardly mobile society.

In the twentieth century, civet coffee became an increasingly popular bourgeois experience, due to the novelty and prestige associated with its purchase and consumption; The increased demand motivated more local farmers to produce ca phe chon on a larger scale, and the race to profit from the growing industry perpetuated the farming of civets at the expense of their welfare.

What it’s really like at a ca phe chon farm

By means of trapping or rearing, poached civets are kept in dingy cages that are far smaller than their home range in the wild. Mr. Yang Yi Yong verifies this, as he recalls his trip to Da Lat, Vietnam, in late October 2011, where he visited a coffee-producing facility. Unimpressed by the sight that greeted him, he explored the sides of the nondescript single-storey building, where he saw the miserable state of civets in captivity.

“[The cages] were not more than 1m by 0.5m by 0.5 m, [and] was made of strips of metal, with no bedding, food and water bowls, and cover,” he said.

“The civets mainly kept to themselves, either curled up in a corner, or pacing around their partitions.”

Mr. Yang is concerned about the welfare of the captive civets, which exhibited stereotypic behaviours, indicative of a lack of appropriate stimulation, stress and overall dissatisfaction. Passivity may also be associated with a lack of food variety. Often, these caged civets live in substandard conditions and are force-fed a monotonous diet of coffee beans.

He added, “There wasn’t any activity, such as feeding or collecting, while I was there.”

Interestingly, the origins of the captives remain unknown, even to the owner of the operation except the fact that the civets were reared for the production of “weasel coffee” (as kopi luwak is known in Vietnam). Further probing yielded no additional information about how the civets came into possession, the levels of fecundity, the facility’s production volume, or who their patrons are.

As of now, the ethical considerations of rearing civets in desolate conditions, for the mass production of weasel coffee, remain unseen. Welfare issues aside, large-scale ca phe chon production were also responsible for illegal deforestation all over Vietnam. Needless to say, habitat destruction implicates other wildlife, and forest fragmentation perpetuates the diminishing of provisioning ecosystems.

Ignorance is a choice

As end-consumers, we may leverage on the sheer purchasing power we possess in the network of market exchange relations, to make the sale of civet coffee obsolete. There are also many other ethical alternatives to civet coffee. Being discerning global citizens in the Information Age, ignorance is a choice.

Let your friends know how we can all help in turning the trade, and help us eliminate the sale of civet coffee in Singapore! Sign the pledge today: https://projectluwaksg.wordpress.com/support/

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References

Carr, G., 2012. The Economist. It’s the shit. http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2012/01/coffee-vietnam

Haque, A., 2006. Distressed Animal Behaviors and Some Recommendations for Improvements at the Kuala Lumpur Zoo, Malaysia. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 9(4): 333-335.

Kumar, A., 2011. The Economist. Wholly shit. http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2011/09/frugal-innovation