One of the most popular prep delivery food services, HelloFresh, a transnational company headquartered in Berlin with operations in 17 countries, has become the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) target. This topic is sickening and standard in a capitalist world: a supply chain – people, companies, and contracts – that organizes a labor regime based on the exploitation and torture of macaque monkeys in Thailand for capitalist profiteering. It is in our best interests to consider the origin stories of what we consume, the Secret History of Food, from the drive-thru to the dinner table.
"Monkeys are chained around the neck and forced to toil day in and day out, all for HelloFresh and other companies that lack a conscience," Tracy Reiman, PETA's executive vice president, claimed Monday in an emailed statement. "PETA is calling on everyone, including HelloFresh, to stop buying canned coconut milk from Thailand until monkeys are no longer used and abused for profit."
The product of eight months of research, PETA Asia Investigation "No Monkey Is Safe in the Thai Coconut Industry," is the third report of its kind. After the first two reports went public,
"Thai government and companies that make coconut products have claimed that monkeys are no longer used in the making of exported products, but PETA Asia's new investigation has confirmed that rampant abuse of primates is still going unchecked—and that Thai coconut industry insiders are deliberately hiding monkey labor in their supply chain."
A press release from the company's lawyers marked a paper trail for any possible trial, the spoiled sticky language of plausible deniability.
"HelloFresh strictly condemns any use of monkey labor in its supply chain, and we take a hard position of not procuring from suppliers or selling coconut products which have been found to use monkey labor. We have written confirmation from all of our suppliers — in the U.S. and globally — that they do not engage in these practices."
What other animals are used for their labor? How would one value the work of an animal, stolen from its habitat, and forced to do repetitive labor, living in squalid conditions? This is not a call for ethical or even sustainable capitalism. Predator logics of dominion and dispossession cannot be reformed.
There is a mini-video report here; it is a short 1:37.
For a fascinating read on the origin stories of food(stuff), check out Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal, by Mark Bittman. The author highlights three goals for the book:
"That human history can be usefully viewed through the lens of food.
How the history of food has shaped where we're at today, in the world generally (U.S. inequality, for example, could hardly be as extreme had not farmland been first stolen from the Indigenous People and then given away by the Federal government exclusively to white males), but particularly in the realm of food, which has had historic and deadly effects on public health, the environment (including climate change), resource use, and the economy.
And finally, that we need to create a kind of road map that will lead us to a just food system, one that will nourish us all, make good food universally affordable, sustain and protect the land, and provide more dignified and well-paying jobs in food and farming."