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The world’s most expensive coffee – known as kopi luwak – has been branded a pandemic risk by vegan charity PETA.

The coffee is sourced from the excrement of civet cats who are kept in what PETA describes as ‘small, waste-filled cages’ on farms supplying the coffee to tourist cafés in Indonesia and for export around the world.

‘Close the farms’

Now the organization has released a new video exposé, which it claims should hasten the closure of these farms, describing them as ‘cruel’ and saying their closure could protect human health.

It adds that ‘farms and animal markets, particularly those where wild animals are kept, have given rise to outbreaks of everything from Spanish flu, swine flu, and avian flu to SARS, MERS, and now COVID-19’.

In addition, says PETA, breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases are created when ‘animals are caged in their own waste and their immune system is suppressed because of stress’, and says SARS, which has an estimated fatality rate of around 15 percent, jumped from civet cats to humans.

Once the civet cats are no longer useful to the kopi luwak industry, they are reportedly sometimes sold to live-animal markets – which have been widely reported as having the potential to transmit disease to humans.

‘Cruel and dangerous’

“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,” PETA managing director, Ingrid Newkirk, said.

“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.”

‘£60 per cup’

PETA adds: “Despite being a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, these civet cats are typically captured when around six months old, kept in filthy cages, and fed a diet high in coffee berries – all just to produce kopi luwak.

“The captive animals exhibited stereotypically distressed behavior such as continuous pacing. Most suffered from painful wounds all over their bodies. The drink is sold around the world for up to £60 per cup.”

Maria Chiorando

Maria is the editor of Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle.