22 years ago I discovered a very rare coffee that had an uniquely smooth texture and musky flavour which came from its quirky provenance. Civet Coffee, or 'Kopi Luwak' as it is widely known, is a predominantly Indonesian coffee made from coffee cherries that have been partially digested, the beans then excreted by a wild mongoose-like animal, the luwak.
Back when I discovered it, the droppings would be collected from the wild in limited quantities, which resulted in a highly prized, but entirely natural and traditional product. However, a rise in the demand for the coffee along with the huge price it commands – it sells for up to $100 per cup – means that wild civets are now being illegally poached in the jungle, cruelly constrained in cages or cramped enclosures, force-fed coffee cherries to mass produce a coffee, pandering to the foibles of rich and leading to the suffering and death of defenceless wild luwaks.
UTZ Certified is one of the most internationally respected coffee certification schemes, providing reassurance to the consumer that their coffee is produced in an ethical and sustainable manner. The problem? There are no animal welfare clauses in their certification code.
The result is that some very large UTZ certified estates in Indonesia are producing kopi luwak from captive luwaks as a lucrative sideline. And the same may be the case in other coffee producing countries.
Next month sees the start of the second public consultation round in their five-yearly code revision process. Thus I'm URGENTLY seeking your support to urge UTZ to amend their code.
The Rainforest Alliance, another well-respected coffee certifier, includes animal welfare in its certification code. The Indonesian plantations that currently benefit from UTZ certification would not be eligible for Rainforest Alliance certification precisely because of these animal welfare criteria. UTZ could and should modify their code to include the same or similar criteria.
And I know there is support for this to happen. After my last successful campaign on change.org to get Harrods to change their policy concerning kopi luwak – so successful that in fact I'm now working with Harrods to establish an independent certification for wild kopi luwak – I'm moving on to address this global problem at the other end of the supply chain.
Follow me on Twitter: @TonyVWild
A recent BBC programme I was involved exposing the cruely and corruption in the kopi luwak trade is now up on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvIl4mpPMkk
This petition is allied to my Facebook campaign 'Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap"
The manifesto of the campaign that explains in much more detail what we're trying to achieve is available as PDF: https://https://www.dropbox.com/sh/66turi0r7tlqnqg/KfTR9BGlz7/Kopi Luwak campaign.pdf