Two women have founded a charity to protect animals used to produce luxury coffee that can sell at around £50 per cup.

Jes Hooper, from Brighton,  a former animal management lecturer at Plumpton College, and Lucy Newton, a Plumpton College graduate from Uckfield, set up the Civet Project Foundation with experts to stop civets being exploited.

Expensive civet coffee is made using pre-digested cherries eaten by civets and then the beans are picked from their faeces.

However, these civets are often captured through what campaigners say are inhumane practices, leading to injuries including loss of limbs, and forced into small cages to produce coffee beans.

Civets are small, four legged mammals native to Asia and Africa.

Ms Hooper, currently studying towards a PhD in anthrozoology, said: "The civet coffee industry has become well established since its launch in international media in the early 2000s.

"What started as a novel product featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and in the Hollywood film The Bucket List, has emerged as a growing industry with shocking animal welfare, conservation, and human health implications.

"No other organisation is dedicated explicitly to tackling this industry or to protecting civets and so we felt it necessary to create one."

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Lucy Newton has joined the Board of Trustees for the charity and another Plumpton College alumna, Keyana Jeffrey, has also joined the cause.

Ms Hooper said: "A fresh perspective for the next generation of conservationists and animal welfare professionals will be vital for taking this small charity forward.

"Not only have we been lucky enough to secure Lucy as a Trustee, but we’ve also been joined by Keyana Jeffrey, another emerging conservationist and alumni of the Plumpton College animal management programme.

"It just goes to show how vital these courses are for the future of the conservation and animal welfare sectors."

The Civet Project Foundation has set World Civet Day on April 4 to raise public awareness about civets and their exploitation.

A documentary will also be released by the charity on this day to show the true cost of civet coffee and the mistreatment civets face.