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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 numerous reasons why some Starbucks customers prefer alternatives to dairy, including dietary restrictions, ethical issues, environmental concerns, lactose intolerance, milk allergies and animal welfare.
Those who want plant-based milk should not have to pay more, they said, calling on the Seattle-based company’s CEO, Howard Schultz, and board chair Mellody Hobson to immediately drop the surcharge.
Starbucks outlets in the United States typically charge 50 cents to a dollar more for drinks made with plant-based milks.
“Customers can customize any beverage on the menu with a non-dairy milk, including soymilk, coconutmilk, almondmilk, and oatmilk for an additional cost (similar to other beverage customizations such as an additional espresso shot or syrup),” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement. “Pricing varies market by market.”
It is not the first time Starbucks’ surcharge has riled the public. On Tuesday, activist and actor James Cromwell glued his hand to the counter of a Starbucks franchise in New York City to protest the practice.
On Tuesday, “Succession’s” actor and activist James Cromwell glued his hand to the counter of a Starbucks in a Midtown Manhattan to protest the extra charge. Cromwell wore a “Free the Animals” T-shirt and read a statement denouncing the surcharge for vegan milk alternatives.
“When will you stop raking in huge profits while customers, animals and the environment suffer?” he demanded as fellow activists streamed the protest on Facebook.
The protest was organized by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Cromwell, 81, later used a knife to scrape it off. Police said there were no arrests.
This is not Cromwell’s first protest. In 2017, the actor was charged with trespassing in 2017 for interrupting an orca show at SeaWorld in San Diego.
Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.