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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Getting the message across at the Festival of Biodiversity

By Claudia Ang

“It’s better to drink milo,” said one of the children I was speaking to suddenly. I looked at him, bemused and yet intrigued because he had a straight face on, while the other children giggled and their parents laughed in view of his innocence and curt honesty.

He meant every word he said.

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(Photos by: Claudia Ang, Festival of Biodiversity Singapore)

We were at the Festival of Biodiversity held at Vivo City earlier in June 2015. I was just speaking to the children about our native civets when we came to the topic of Kopi Luwak. The story of the civets’ captivity and exploitation as a result of the Kopi Luwak trade caused their faces to twist in grimace. Their eyebrows furrowed, in sadness and in anger, and perhaps also in the inability to comprehend how or why us humans could allow such unnecessary abuse to occur just in exchange for some coffee beans. In that instant I knew that through our brief encounter they already had within them an appreciation for the creatures, for their beauty and sheer existence.

That’s when he said it. “It’s better to drink milo.” I looked at him expectantly, urging him to continue explaining his point of view to the other children. “Milo is good and it gives us energy too. It’s also sweet and chocolatey, not like coffee. We shouldn’t use the civets in this way. No matter how good it tastes, it’s not right.”

I gave him a badge with a picture of the common palm civet, shook his hand, and said, “Now will you please do me and the civets a favour? Share this story to all your friends, your family, and everyone who doesn’t know about it yet. Help us help the civets, okay?” He nodded, thanked me for the badge, and went away with his parents.

I was brimming inside. Getting the message across to as many people as we can has always been the goal, but it’s conversations like these that always brighten up my day, when I’m offered another point of view or alternative that helps us look at the entire issue in a separate person’s shoes. Children see it that way – they see no need for the abuse or the exploitation or the coffee beans itself. There are so many other drinks and types of great coffee that do not require the sacrifice of lives in order to produce.

It brought me back to the event we had two weeks earlier at Pulau Ubin in celebration of Ubin Day. People were horrified to learn about the living conditions of Kopi Luwak civets, and yet were able to readily admit that they have tried the coffee before. There’s no difference, they say. It’s just a marketing tool to get more money.

I will never know what real Kopi Luwak tastes like, because I’m sure I will never try it. But the point is, why waste all that money on these “exquisite” produce when you can get real, good, alternative produce at a lower cost?

Certification: The next big thing for the kopi luwak industry?

By Xu Weiting

Six months ago, the release of the documentary “Our World Coffee’s Cruel Secret – Kopi Luwak” by BBC and Tony Wild, a coffee consultant (and also coincidentally, the first person who brought kopi luwak to the West), highlighted the plight of civets in the kopi luwak trade. Following its wide reach and success, animal welfare groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) started their own campaigns to raise awareness of as well as call for action against the cruelty in the kopi luwak trade.

On the other hand, there are reports explaining the flip side of the story – that not all kopi luwak is cage-sourced. One example is from the Jakarta Post, entitled “Luwak coffee: From animal welfare to national heritage” published end Oct 2013. This article emphasized that “authentic luwak coffee is not produced in that manner. Greed has turned some businesspeople to engage in farming civet cats to produce luwak coffee”. It also highlighted that kopi luwak “is not only giving us national source of pride through a delicacy but also independent economic solutions for the people.”

The article concluded that as kopi luwak is part of Indonesia’s cultural heritage, solutions are necessary to preserve this heritage in order to help small scale farmers and ensure the protection of the natural environment.

In April 2014, Tony Wild announced on his Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap Facebook page that there will be discussions between the Government of Indonesia and The Specialty Coffee Association of Europe which may potentially result in the certification system of genuine wild-sourced kopi luwak.

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Taken from Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap Facebook page

We are definitely looking forward to the day where consumers can enjoy kopi luwak with the assurance that their cuppa is 100% wild-sourced without fears of mislabeling. In the meantime, Project LUWAK SG will continue with our efforts in education and outreach to raise awareness of the cruelty behind kopi luwak from caged civets. Do join us!

Why avoid Kopi Luwak?

By Germaine Leng

Kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world and sells for roughly $420 per pound. Some claim that the coffee beans that have gone through the civet’s digestive system have a nice and smooth after-taste but others claim that it is likely to be just a marketing gimmick.

Before you purchase a cup, do you know what exactly goes on behind the production scene of kopi luwak?

Coffee beans from wild civet droppings. Image by Jaz Aznar (The New York Times).

Many companies state that their kopi luwak are “genuine and wild”. Genuine wild-sourced kopi luwak beans are harvested from the droppings of wild civets after they pass out undigested coffee beans. This can only be done by tracing the steps of a civet. However, as the demand and value of kopi luwak increases, more people have taken to keeping captive civets to ensure a high and reliable supply of civet coffee.

What’s wrong with keeping captive civets to produce kopi luwak?

Firstly, civets have to be caught from the wild. As the demand for kopi luwak increases, poachers are trapping large number of civets and are thus, threatening the wild population of civets. Previously, only the common palm civet was trapped and used in the production of kopi luwak, but this has now extended to all kinds of civets.

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Captive civet kept in a poor condition cage. Image by surtr (Wikimedia Commons).

Secondly, civets that are caught are then confined to small battery cages. To minimize the space required, cages are stacked on top of each other. This is problematic on several levels. Civets are shy and solitary animals that spend their days sleeping in dense vegetation and foraging at night.

Having so many civets in such a small area causes stress and may result in stereotypical behaviour such as pacing, fights and even paw gnawing. The cages that they are kept in are also bare and they do not have a suitable place to rest in the day.

Caged civet and the yield of kopi luwak beans produced. Image by Kemal Jufri (The New York Times).

Thirdly, to increase the yield of kopi luwak, captive civets are often fed nothing but coffee beans. In the wild, coffee beans makes up only a small percentage of its diet; they feed mainly on fruits and occasionally, on small animals such as birds, reptiles and insects. This result in captive civets being malnourished; many suffer from fur loss, pass blood out in their faeces and will eventually die.

Besides the lack of essential nutrients, the amount of caffeine that a captive civet is forced to eat amounts up to 125 espresso shots. That is 25 times more daily intake of caffeine that a healthy human adult is advised to take.

Because of the un-natural condition civets are kept under to produce kopi luwak, civets have a lifespan of about over a year, when in the wild, they can live up to an average of 20 years.

The truth behind the expensive gourmet coffee is indeed ugly and there is no way of telling whether the kopi luwak that you are going to buy comes from wild or captive civets. Demand for any kind of kopi luwak will only spur people to capture more civets to produce the coffee beans that people crave for. You can do your part for the civets by boycotting kopi luwak and spreading awareness!