By SEAN POULTER
- Kopi Luwak coffee, £60 a cup, is made from excrement of civet cats
- Felines found to only feed on the finest of coffee beans in the wild
- Discovery has led to the animals being kept in battery farm-style cages
A cup of Kopi Luwak coffee is considered the height of luxury and can cost as much as £60, however the price in animal welfare has left a bitter taste.
Now Selfridges has decided to remove the exclusive and highly prize coffee from shelves following concerns about the impact on the civet cats that are crucial to its production.
Bizarrely, the coffee, which is said to have a uniquely smooth taste, is harvested from the excrement of the civet cat.
Historically, plantation workers in the forests of Indonesia discovered that the civet cats in the wild would only eat the finest coffee beans.
They collected the part digested beans excreted by the animals and made coffee that had a unique flavour.
It was believed that the quality of the beans, coupled with the effects of the part digestion in the animal’s body were needed to develop the taste.
As the coffee became known around the world, so a market developed with the result that farmers captured and caged the wild cats to ensure a plentiful and ready supply.
However, animal welfare campaigners found the conditions in the tiny battery farm style cages are often cruel, filthy and inhumane.
Undercover video footage by welfare campaigners found the tiny civets exhibiting neurotic behaviour such as incessant pacing, spinning and head-bobbing – indications that the wild-caught animals are going insane from boredom.
One farmer explained civets are generally kept caged for around three years.
Another compared civets eating too many coffee berries to humans smoking, as their health deteriorates during captivity because of a lack of vitamins and nutrition.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has campaigned to highlight the suffering with the result that Selfridges has decided to remove the coffee from sale.
The move follows an earlier decision by Harrods to stop selling coffee produced from caged civets.
However, a number of UK websites are currently selling the controversial coffee for between £180 and £300 a kilo.
The WSPA has launched a campaign for an independent certification scheme to ensure the coffee only comes from civet cats that are not held in cages.
It has contacted a series of retailers in the UK and around the world asking what steps they are taking to verify whether their coffee is from farmed or wild civets.
The animal charity has met with the Rain Forest Alliance and UTZ Certified, two organisations working across the world to certify that food products such as coffee meet responsible animal welfare standards.
Dr Neil D’Cruze, the head of wildlife research at WSPA, said: ‘Retailers all over the world have committed to only obtain civet coffee from guaranteed ‘cage- free’ sources and it is clear that this is the animal friendly product that consumers want.
‘We are encouraged by the dialogue we have had with these leading international certification bodies which we hope will result in retailers and consumers being able to make an informed and humane choice, preventing the cruel capture and confinement of hundreds of civets.’
Despite the controversy surrounding its production, the civet cat coffee still retains an air of luxury and mystery.
It recently featured in the Hollywood move, The Bucket List, where Jack Nicholson’s terminally ill character chose it as one of the experiences he must try before he dies.
A spokesman for Selfridges said the company previously sold civet coffee from a small sustainable supplier, however it has now decided to permanently remove it from shelves.
There is no evidence that the coffee it was selling came from mistreated animals.