Dear World – The Thing about Animals and Kopi Luwak

Kopi Lemak Coffee Malaysia

Preamble: The internet is my drug of choice. But with this incredible access to knowledge and experience I find I have more questions than answers. It’s overwhelming.

As well as venting my frustration at John each day (!) and hoping that we can make a small difference with our videos, I am going to share my discoveries with you, Dear Reader in the hope that in the very least (hopefully) I will get to realise that I am not alone in my thoughts…

Dear World

This month I learned of a sad new reality.

Once again this week, like many other weeks I am struck by the overwhelming evilness of humanity when it comes to the treatment of our fellow earthlings… the animals of this planet.

We found a tiny little coffee shop in the historic colonial area of Penang in Malaysia. The sign read “hand brewed coffee”. The owner was a pleasant man who invited us in, and he was clearly passionate about his coffee. They had regular Arabica coffee and they had this amazing super dooper expensive coffee called Kopi Luwak – the most expensive coffee in the world.

Discovering Kopi Luwak

The shop was small, sparse and intimately lit, the walls simply a showpiece for shelves displaying impressive coffee making machines that would not be out of place in a science lab.

They explained that Kopi Luwak was coffee that was eaten whole by these cute little civet tree cats that live in the jungle in Indonesia.

The berries would be partially digested before the civet would poo out the seeds with the hull still intact. The farmers crack open the poo, then wash (!) and remove the hull to reveal the precious beans which they then dry and roast. Then if you are lucky (and rich) you can enjoy this precious coffee.

Kopi Lemak Coffee Malaysia

There were pictures of this cute cat in the tree tops and the process for making the coffee was a sight for our coffee loving eyes. The ice drip coffee took 12 hours to process through rack that held 8 glass bowls with glass tubes running between them, it ended up a bit like a liqueur.

The hot coffee we tried was heated in a round glass bowl with a gas burner the steam being sucked up into the fresh grains, then after removing the heat and rubbing the piping hot empty bowl with a cloth it got sucked back into a frothy hot mess of awesomeness.

Kopi Lemak Coffee Malaysia

It was impressive.

The buzz was electric, I was floating high all afternoon from one coffee! I normally crash after an hour or 2, but there was no crash, just a floaty coffee high that lasted me through the whole day.

It lasted right until I found out the real story behind Kopi Luwak.

The farming of civet cats for Kopi Luwak

The reality is that the cute tree cats no longer run wild in the tree tops of the jungle, but are force fed coffee beans in small cages. Abused and confined their entire lives are spent in miserable living conditions.

I read that there is one organisation that is working with farmers to collect the beans from the wild, but that the industry on the whole is one of extreme cruelty.

Sadly I am not surprised.

Kopi Luwak - Animal Cruelty

It was the same experience when I realised the intense cruelty that comes with collecting down and feathers for our jackets and pillows, the angora and leather for fashion, and the factory farmed meat for our supermarkets.

It was the same sadness I feel when I see hours and hours of palm oil plantations through the heart of Malaysia, recently home to a brilliant array of wondrous wildlife. Their homes burnt and any chance of escape and life extinguished by humans with clubs and murderous intent.

Palm Oil Plantation Malaysia
All of the once lush primary jungle, replaced with rows upon rows of palm trees. No wildlife in sight.

It is the same sadness I feel when I go scuba diving and the sea life has been decimated. It is the same sadness I feel when I realise that we can’t protect the most wonderful of our wildlife… not from disease, not from exploding volcanoes or falling meteors but from the exploitation of their homes or their bodies for profit.

Be Abused or be Wiped Out

We don’t just use animals. We abuse animals, so horrifically that when you see the abuse it shocks your system. You can’t unsee the rabbit that screams when they pull her fur for sweaters. You can’t unsee the ducks raw bleeding chest after her feathers are roughly pulled out. You can’t unsee the depression of a beautiful sentient pig kept a lifetime in the dark, in her filth and agonising sores.

Factory farms don’t look like green pastures with happy animals frolicking, loved, named, protected by the farmers.

Animals in this world go one of two ways. Be abused and controlled by the system for profit or enjoyment, or be wiped out. There is no middle ground. Sure, we have places where individuals have created sanctuaries for animals and protect them. But they are the minority, they are heralded as heroes.

Sadly they are not winning the race.

We live in the “communication age”, we can learn what is happening in the furthest reaches of the world and the more I learn the more disgusted I am with the inhumanity and short-sightedness of humans.

But. And it is a big but. We can use this medium to make change. Even if government agencies make it illegal to film the abuse. Even if the SPCA gives the abuse the tick of approval. Even if there are people who are so desensitised that they no longer care.

Here are some ideas from the top of my head… how about:

1. Animal compassion classes in school. Kids get to spend time with a variety of animals. They get to care for them, build relationships and learn to treat them well.

2. A global community that crowdfunds land that can be used in smart ways for sustainable conservation.

I am sure you could come up with many more (and better!) ideas for how we can bring more compassion into our relationships with animals. I don’t want to believe that we are so evil and greedy on this planet that we can’t change things for the better.

Just so I don’t leave you totally depressed, here are some kids who will hopefully teach us all a thing or two about compassion for our fellow earthlings.

If you like this post, check out the first post in the Dear World series: Dear World – The Thing About Modern Slavery

5 thoughts on “Dear World – The Thing about Animals and Kopi Luwak”

  1. Heartbreaking! Makes me want to throw up to think that anyone could subject another being to any type of cruelty. I love the idea of educating kids from an early age on. If we create more compassionate and educated humans, there may be hope for a more cruelty free future planet.

    • Yes, I think it comes down to ignorance. If we never see a cow, how can we feel compassion for it? So many kids in big cities, don’t know where pork and beef come from. They don’t associate the animal with the dinner. In the US they don’t even say meat any more, they say “protein”, removing us even more from the animal it comes from.

  2. A Note of Hope:
    Back in 2011 I attended a senior educator leadership conference. This conference was for the senior leaders of the English Schools Foundation Schools of Hong Kong. The Foundation schools are part of the International Baccalaureate program that has young people use a process of inquiry and community action and service. One group of 10 year olds I mentored as part of their Exhibition was passionately lobbying the Hong Kong government for the abolition of shark finning. Another group of 15 year olds went to Indonesia to work with a brilliant man, Willie Smits at the Masarang Foundation (, Indonesia. Willie and the foundation fight against animal cruelty, child slavery and deforestation in one of the world’s notorious abuser in these issues. Willie spoke at the senior educator leadership conference two years in a row and has such a message of hope and inspiration.
    The work that educators in places like these is creating awareness and sensitivity amongst the world’s future leaders!


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