Research: Kopi luwak (civet poop) coffee threatens welfare of animals

by JulieCraves on April 17, 2013

ResearchBlogging.orgObservations of small carnivores in Jakarta wildlife markets, Indonesia, with notes on trade in Javan Ferret Badger Melogale orientalis and on the increasing demand for Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus for civet coffee production. Shepherd, 2012. Small Carnivore Conservation.

Kopi luwak — coffee beans pooped out by small mammals called civets — is the hideous fad that just won’t go away.  In a previous post and review, all the ins and outs of this awful practice and its results are covered.  Theoretically at least, the pooped-out coffee beans used to be collected from the forest floor after the civets ate them while foraging in the wild. The popularity of this type of coffee, however undeserved, has resulted in most luwak coffee coming from animals kept in small cages in unsanitary conditions, fed only coffee cherries. This is not a nutritionally sound diet — note that they are carnivores; meat, not fruit, should be the primary element of their diets. Late last year, The Guardian did a piece on the abuse of animals kept to feed the kopi luwak craze.

This paper, published in Small Carnivore Conservation, the journal of the Small Carnivore Specialist Group of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), highlights the plight of these animals in Asian wildlife markets. Common Palm Civets, the species most often used to produce kopi luwak, were the most common small carnivores being offered for sale in markets in Jakarta, Indonesia. Two other civet species were also found.

According to the paper, Common Palm Civets have a quota for capture and trade in Indonesia — only 270 are allowed per year to be sold as pets. However, because this species is also often considered a pest, these quotas are not enforced. Civets are also sold in markets in other Asian countries as “pets”, but the author noted that in Bali, at least one dealer noted the production of kopi luwak as a selling point. In a great piece covering this same paper at the online conservation site Mongabay, the author notes that civets and their relatives are already under pressure from habitat loss and hunting. This exploitation just adds another threat to the health of their populations.

Additionally, the frequently inhumane conditions under which these animals are kept threatens the individual welfare of civets. Unless new regulations are formulated and enforced for kopi luwak “farms,” civets are likely to be continued to be captured and confined, all for the sake of novelty coffee.  A quicker solution is for everyone to reject the notion of kopi luwak and refuse to purchase it, period. I know there are a few companies offering wild-collected kopi luwak, but as long as those purveyors are given a pass, there will be exploiters and liars taking advantage of the market. Just say no to kopi luwak.

C.R. Shepherd (2012). Observations of small carnivores in Jakarta wildlife markets, Indonesia, with notes on trade in Javan Ferret Badger Melogale orientalis and on the increasing demand for Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus for civet coffee production. Small Carnivore Conservation, 47: 38-41.

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Revised on January 25, 2016

Posted in Research on coffee growing

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