Breaking Investigation: Is the World’s Most Expensive Coffee a Pandemic Risk?

PETA Calls On Japanese Minister of Health to End Filthy Coffee Imports—or Risk Starting the Next Pandemic

For Immediate Release:
September 9, 2020

Tokyo — Live-animal markets are still operating across Indonesia—even as COVID-19 rages around the world—and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is releasing a new video investigation revealing that Asian palm civets are being kept in cramped, waste-filled cages on farms that produce kopi luwak, a coffee sourced from their excrement, for export from Indonesia around the world, including to Japan, one of the leading importers.

The group notes that farms are breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases and that SARS, which has an estimated fatality rate of around 15%, is known to have jumped from civets to humans; it’s also believed that civets could have been a potential intermediary for the novel coronavirus. Civets who are no longer useful to the kopi luwak industry are often discarded in the forest or sold to live-animal markets, where they can transmit disease. One farmer advised an investigator not to get civets from a live-animal market, because they’re kept near animals of other species, facilitating the spread of disease.

In light of the findings, PETA rushed a letter to Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Katsunobu Katō urging him to end Japan’s imports of kopi luwak right away.

“Filthy live-animal markets, where civet cats are packed in close to other species, are petri dishes for pandemics. The kopi luwak industry is the last thing that should be operating as the world battles a deadly animal-borne disease,” says PETA Senior Vice President Jason Baker. “PETA is urging Japan to stop supporting this cruel, dangerous business—or risk being on the wrong side of history when the next pandemic occurs.”

Despite being a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, Asian palm civets are typically captured when they’re around 6 months old; kept in filthy cages; and given almost nothing to eat but coffee berries—all just to produce kopi luwak. The beverage is sold around the world for up to ¥8,750 per cup.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat or abuse in any other way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview.

Photographs and broadcast-quality video footage are available upon request. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.