Interfaith group asks Starbucks to drop vegan milk surcharge
BOSTON — A group of Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish leaders is asking Starbucks to stop charging extra for vegan milk alternatives, saying the practice amounts to a tax on people who have embraced plant-based lifestyles.
In a statement issued Friday, an interfaith coalition led by Nevada-based Hindu activist Rajan Zed pressed the coffee chain to end the surcharges it called “unethical and unfair.”
“A coffee company should not be in the business of taxing individuals who had chosen the plant-based lifestyle,” said Zed’s statement, which was also signed by Thomas W. Blake, an Episcopal priest; Greek Orthodox clergyman Stephen R. Karcher; Buddhist priest Matthew Fisher; and Jewish rabbi ElizaBeth Webb Beyer. The religious leaders cited many reasons why some Starbucks customers prefer alternatives such as dairy, including ethical concerns, dietary restrictions, animal welfare, lactose intolerance and milk allergies, as well as environmental concerns.
Those who desire plant-based milk shouldn’t have to pay more. They called on Howard Schultz, the CEO of the Seattle-based company, and Mellody Hobson, the board chair, to immediately remove the surcharge.
Starbucks outlets in the United States typically charge 50 cents to a dollar more for drinks made with plant-based milks.
Starbucks doesn’t charge for a splash of nondairy milk, including soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk and oat milk, though it does levy a surcharge for customized beverages made largely with those substitutes, spokesperson Megan Adams told The Associated Press. This is not the first time that Starbucks’ surcharge has upset the public. James Cromwell, actor and activist, glued his hand to the counter at a Starbucks in New York City on Tuesday to protest the practice.
Cromwell, 81, later used a knife to scrape it off. According to police, there were no arrests.
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