PETA exposé shows civets, intermediaries for SARS, still sold in Asian live markets

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A PETA Asia investigation has found live markets that sell civets, intermediaries for the SARS coronavirus, and farms that cage them for Kopi Luwak coffee.

The world’s most expensive — and controversial — coffee, Kopi Luwak, has come under fire again, as a PETA exposé revealed more farms where civet cats, who are used in the coffee’s production, are kept in cages and live markets where potentially sick civets are sold.

Produced mainly in Indonesia, Kopi Luwak is widely condemned in the coffee industry for its poor treatment of the palm civet and the heavy counterfeiting of the beans. Recently, the World Health Organisation revealed that civets were an intermediary for the SARS coronavirus from bats to humans.

PETA notes that when animals are caged in their own waste and their immune systems are suppressed due to stress, breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases are created. The SARS virus had jumped from civet cats to humans. Civets who are no longer considered useful in the coffee industry are sold in live markets. “One farmer advised an investigator not to get civet cats from a live-animal market, because they’re kept near other types of animals, facilitating cross-species contamination and then the spread of disease,” reads the report.

While kopi luwak is advertised as ‘wild-sourced’ often, one former told the PETA investigator that it’s nearly impossible to produce the coffee exclusively from wild civets. One producer also suggested “deliberately mislabelling coffee from captive animals” to reflect wild sourcing. In order to validate that claim, he admitted mixing in the faeces of some free-roaming civets with that of caged ones.

PETA is asking people to stop purchasing and drinking kopi luwak, no matter the certification. So far, almost 15,000 people have taken that pledge.

“The world is already battling a deadly animal-borne disease, and the last thing we should be doing is caging civet cats so that someone can pick through their waste and sell coffee made from the beans found in it,” says PETA managing director Ingrid Newkirk.

He adds: “If coffee drinkers continue to support the cruel and dangerous kopi luwak industry, they risk finding themselves on the wrong side of history when the next pandemic hits.”

Anay Mridul
Anay Mridul
Anay is journalism graduate from City, University of London, he was a barista for three years, and never shuts up about coffee. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford Comma. Originally from India, he went vegan in 2020, after attempting (and failing) Veganuary. He believes being environmentally conscious is a basic responsibility, and veganism is the best thing you can do to battle climate change. He gets lost at Whole Foods sometimes.