The animal rights organization says it's time for the coffee company to make almond, and oat alternatives cost the same as cow's milk.

By Jelisa Castrodale
December 17, 2019

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has taken that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" adage literally, announcing that the animal rights organization has become a Starbucks shareholder, after months of online petitions, in-person protests, and social media comments asking the coffee company to stop charging extra for non-dairy milk.

According to KIRO Radio, PETA has purchased one $88.68 share of Starbucks stock, which will allow one of its representatives to attend the company's next shareholder meeting. Although it probably has a lot of suggestions for Starbucks, right now, it's focusing on the extra 80 cents it costs to swap cow's milk for a vegan or plant-based option.

"Many coffee drinkers are lactose intolerant, and PETA is intolerant of cruelty to cows, which is why charging extra for soy and nut milks is hard to swallow," PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement. “PETA is heading to Starbucks' boardroom to urge the company to end this unfair surcharge."

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PETA told KIRO that a number of Starbucks' competitors, including Tim Horton's, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and Whole Foods, do not charge extra for non-dairy milk. The organization says that the extra surcharge "punishes" those who choose not to drink cow's milk because they're lactose intolerant, because they're concerned about the environmental impact of dairy farming, or because they oppose the "cruelty to cows" that the organization says is part of today's dairy industry.

This isn't the first time the Norfolk, Virginia-based activist group has challenged Starbucks' non-dairy surcharge. In mid-July, it encouraged "environmentalists, feminists, health enthusiasts, anti-speciesists, vegans, friends of cows, lovers of coffee, lactose-intolerant people, and those who just want to make the world a better place" to contact Starbucks on Instagram, on Twitter, or through its customer service number to ask the company to drop those charges.

"Don't get us wrong—we like it a latte that Starbucks offers so many vegan options, such as coconut, soy, and almond milk (and even oat milk at some stores), but we don't like that customers are being made to pay more to get dairy-free milk with their drinks," PETA wrote. "It's time for Starbucks to warm its cold brew heart and drop the additional fee that it charges for nondairy options."

The same day that it suggested some online (or on-the-phone) activism, PETA led a protest outside the Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, promising that its supporters would be holding signs that read "Vegan Surcharge: Udder Nonsense" and "Soymilk Surcharge Sux."

But since the online campaigns, in-person protests, and the inevitable Change.org petition don't seem to have convinced Starbucks to do... well, anything yet, PETA seems to be hoping that maybe raising the issue at the shareholders' meeting will do the trick.

If it doesn't, we're guessing that they'll let everyone know.

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