The Civet Project is delighted and humbled that Dame Jane Goodall DBE, world renowned primatologist, anthropologist, and environmental ambassador, has joined The Civet Project's call to stop civet coffee.
Civet coffee, also known as "weasel coffee" and "kopi luwak" is coffee produced through the digestive tracts of civets, small nocturnal carnivores native to southeast Asia. With the beans picked from civet poo, civet coffee is is said to be the most rare and unique coffee in the world, which is why civet coffee can sell for prices averaging $50 per cup.
Yet, as The Civet Project's research has shown, the industry claims of rarity and uniqueness are false. Civets are now confined across Asia in factory farms and they are also held on display at tourist attractions so that tourists can pose with them for souvenir photographs.
Jane Goodall kindly met with the Civet Project's founder, Jes Hooper, and independent filmmaker, Jack Wootton, to speak about the issues associated with civet coffee as part of their upcoming documentary.
Filmed at her home during a beautiful and hot September afternoon, Jane spoke about her distaste for coffee that comes from the back end of an animal; the power of the consumer to make a positive difference for animals; and the hope she has for the future due to the movement of young people around the world making a peaceful stand for the environment.
The documentary, which will film for the first time, the impact of civet coffee on Vietnam’s wildlife through first hand footage of civet coffee tourism, civet rescue, and rehabilitation, is part of The Civet Project's outreach efforts to protect civets from exploitation. Footage will include interviews with conservationists and animal welfare experts working on the ground to deal with the fall-out from the civet coffee industry. It will also feature NGO leaders and public figures asking for a consumer and tourist boycott of civet coffee.
Whilst common palm civets are not an endangered species, the scale of civet coffee production and tourism is putting their species at risk. As seed dispersers, civets are integral for forest health and so their removal can negatively impact wider ecosystems. Once captured, civets find themselves in the most horrendous conditions in small, barren, cages without any of their basic needs being met.
As well as the environmental and animal welfare implications of civet coffee, an important topic of conversation between Jane, Jes, and Jack during yesterdays meeting, was the risk of zoonosis that civet coffee brings. Civet coffee production and tourism places humans in greater proximity to the faecal waste of a species that can carry coronaviruses.
Civets were found to be the vectors of the 2004 outbreak of SARS after the disease was traced to a restaurant that housed live civets and served civet meat. With the world still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, the continued growth and popularity of civet coffee is a worrying trend that could have global health implications. Jane rightly pointed out the risk that civet coffee brings to the people who are trying to keep up with the consumer demand for its production.
Speaking about their conversations, Jes Hooper (The Civet Project founder) explained:
"Meeting Dame Jane Goodall was a huge honour and we are exceptionally grateful for her participation in our documentary. Having been inspired by Jane to pursue a career in conservation myself, meeting her was a true career highlight. It felt surreal to be speaking to her about an animal issue I am so passionate about. I can only hope our audience is as equally inspired by her and so take her advice to avoid civet coffee."
The documentary is expected to launch on 4th April 2024 on the first ever World Civet Day, a day to celebrate all things civets and to raise awareness of the threats that civets face.
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