Australian Tourists In Bali Warned To Avoid ‘Cruel, Rotten’ Local Coffee Blend

Coffee with a side of cruelty.

Australian Tourists In Bali Warned To Avoid ‘Cruel, Rotten’ Local Coffee Blend

Image: DMARGE/Romer Macapuno

PETA has cast its ever-contentious eyes on Bali and said tourists should avoid ‘kopi luwak’ due to ethical concerns over animal treatment.

While Bali might be one of the destinations that Aussies love most, it’s fair to say there are a few things you should look to avoid during your travels to Indonesia’s most infamous island. Naked temple gatecrashers are one while accidentally booking out an entire hotel would be another. This week, however, we’ve been informed of another to add to our list: civet coffee.

Australian tourists visiting Bali have been urged to steer clear of a local coffee delicacy known as ‘kopi luwak’, more commonly known as “civet coffee” to travellers. This altogether unique brew, made from beans excreted (yes, we mean that kind of excretion…) by the civet — a small mammal native to the region — has come under scrutiny from a number of animal rights organisations for its morally questionable production processes.

WATCH: British Woman ‘Accidentally’ Books Entire Bali Hotel Instead of Airbnb

The always-controversial People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has released an investigative video highlighting what they believe to be inhumane conditions under which civets are kept in order to produce this coffee. The organisation claims the civets are confined in cramped wire cages, totally deprived of their natural habitat, and regularly fed rotten coffee berries.

The supposed allure of kopi luwak lies in precisely this exotic production process as well as its undeniable rarity, both of which lead it to fetch eye-wateringly high prices, between US$45 and US$600 per pound. Suffice to say it’s a lucrative business, valued at US$7.16 billion worldwide and expected to grow to US$11 billion by 2032. That is, of course, if the industry can weather growing backlash around its controversial animal practices…

Jason Baker, Senior Vice-President of PETA, told CNBC that it’s virtually impossible to mass-produce the coffee without caging civets, calling out what he believes are misleading claims made by sellers in Bali who instead argue that the beans are collected from civets roaming freely in the wild.

Image: One Planet Conservation Awareness

The Bali Tourism Board has yet to respond to calls demanding better regulation of kopi luwak production and sale on the island, while PETA continues to advocate for a full-scale boycott of the product, urging tourists to avoid contributing, albeit unknowingly, to the suffering of civets for the sake of an ‘exclusive’ cup of coffee.

Tourists, who are known to travel in a cloud of fairly blissful ignorance in most parts of the world, are often unaware of the apparent cruelty that lurks behind the beverage. One kopi luwak merchant admitted to PETA investigators that tourists are deliberately kept in the dark about the civets’ living conditions:

“That’s because we forcibly confine them…”

Anonymous ‘kopi luwak’ Seller

While we do feel for the civets and would urge people to avoid the acclaimed product if possible, the wider issue at play here is one around the pervasive ignorance that many tourists bring with them on their travels to Bali, but also far beyond.

This taps into far larger debates about how ethically one can ever travel, especially when most of us are prone to dropping in and out of locations for only a week or two at a time; how much can you ever really know about a place or what goes on there in such short space of time?

Perhaps the real question here is why this issue is being placed at the foot of tourists and travellers rather than the local government. Surely it’s on them to control bad practices of any sort that fall within the bounds of their jurisdiction; tourists are just coming for a good time, and it’s up to the government to make that as easy as possible so that traveller cash can flow just as easily too…