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.

Tony wild

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!

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/.