Pricey Coffee Comes At A Cost -- Animal Cruelty

<p><a class="checked-link" href="">Kabacchi</a></p>
<p><a class="checked-link" href="">Kabacchi</a></p>

At $200 to $400 per kilogram, civet coffee is the priciest cup of joe on the planet. It's also one of the stranger brews to fill a mug -- the cat-like civets eat coffee cherries and excrete the beans. But the industry that's sprung up around this coffee comes at a bitter cost to the civets, according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

The traditional method of collecting civet coffee involves scooping up the half-digested beans wild animals have left behind after digesting the cherries. But according to WSPA researchers, who recently verified an undercover BBC investigation of the civet coffee industry in Indonesia, there's a darker way of getting coffee beans: civet farming.

To churn out more beans, poachers snare wild Asian palm civets and another civet species, the binturong. Within mesh cages, the captured civets are fed a diet of coffee cherries.

"I have seen first-hand the suffering experienced by these animals," says Neil D'Cruze, a wildlife expert and an author of the WSPA report. "Kept in small, dirty cages that fail to meet their basic needs, these conditions often result in high levels of morbidity and mortality."

Tony Wild, an erstwhile coffee trader who was among the first to import civet coffee from Indonesia, started a campaign last September to end the industry he says he created. Kopi luwak -- another name for civet coffee -- "is now rarely wild," he writes. Instead, it's industrialized. "Sounds disgusting? It is."

The WSPA, too, has begun their own fight for better, more sustainable civet coffee. Consumers should refuse to purchase civet coffee unless they are positive it came from cage-free animals, the animal welfare group says.

"The torment that they endure for a cup of coffee is totally unacceptable," D'Cruze says. "We must expose the true cost of the world's most expensive coffee and stop these wild animals from living in such horrific conditions."