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!

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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.