Starbucks to Be Pummeled by PETA at Annual Meeting: Only Greenwashing Allows Vegan Milk Surcharge

For Immediate Release:
March 22, 2023

Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382


At Starbucks’ annual meeting tomorrow, three shareholders and a PETA representative will fire a barrage of questions at the company, including at its new CEO, Laxman Narasimhan, urging the Seattle-based “environmentally conscientious” coffee purveyor to eliminate the surcharge it imposes on eco- and animal-friendly plant milks even though animal agriculture harms the environment, including via cows’ output of greenhouse gases. They’ll point out that Starbucks—which perpetuates immense cruelty to cows and their calves, who are separated so that the milk the mothers produce for their babies can be sold—lags behind others in the coffee industry and earns the ire of Gen Z and lactose-intolerant populations by pricing vegan milks higher than cow’s milk, even after admitting that dairy is the biggest contributor to its carbon footprint and yet having done nothing about it.

PETA supporters and activists with Animal Rights Initiative will also descend on Starbucks’ headquarters in downtown Seattle at the start of the meeting to make their position known. During the meeting, PETA will also present its shareholder resolution calling on Starbucks to commission a report examining whether or not the company is actually losing sales and hurting its reputation via its unpopular upcharge for vegan milks.

Milking customers up to 90 cents more for eco- and animal-friendly vegan milks is indefensible, cruel, and environmentally harmful,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA and other concerned investors are going full steam ahead in urging Starbucks to ditch this shameless surcharge.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat or abuse in any other way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

The full shareholder questions follow.

Question #1

I’ve been a loyal Starbucks customer for years. Back in the day, Starbucks was an industry trailblazer as one of the first national coffee chains to offer soy milk. When you added coconut and almond milk, I felt that Starbucks was truly listening to its customers. But times have changed. Now virtually every neighborhood café offers oat milk, and more and more have stopped charging extra for oat, almond, soy, and other vegan milks. As someone who regularly travels abroad, I’ve also noticed that many Starbucks stores around the world—such as those in France, the U.K., and now Germany—have dropped the vegan upcharge. But here in the U.S., Starbucks is still charging up to 90 cents extra for vegan milks! I now feel that Starbucks has shifted from responding to its dairy-averse customers to exploiting us. I would like to ask this: When will Starbucks return to the values that made me an investor by listening to its customers, leading the coffee industry instead of lagging behind, and dropping the upcharge on vegan milks?

Question #2

I have a question for corporate management. As someone who lives in Seattle, I’ve been proud to watch Starbucks share our coffee culture with the world. But I’m also deeply concerned about climate change and the effect my choices have on our beautiful planet. I’ve read that coffee chains Blue Bottle and Stumptown Roasters have made oat milk the default for all coffee beverages because of dairy’s high carbon footprint. LinkedIn’s office tower in San Francisco also made oat milk the default at its coffee bar, and that move cut its carbon footprint in half! You keep telling us that Starbucks cares about the environment, but your actions say otherwise. My question is this: Since Starbucks has admitted that dairy is the biggest contributor to the company’s carbon footprint and is a major factor in climate change, why doesn’t Starbucks institute a dairy surcharge or, even better, drop dairy altogether? 

Question #3

I consider myself a savvy investor, but lately, Starbucks has me concerned. I recently read about a study that found that almost half of Gen Z is ashamed to order dairy and that nearly 60% plan to give it up this year! This did not surprise me. It’s impossible not to notice the explosive popularity of oat milk lattes, coconut-based ice creams, and other dairy-free options at coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores. I was shocked, however, to learn that Starbucks has partnered with Arla, the dairy cooperative that conducted the study on Gen Z and dairy. This partnership makes no sense whatsoever. Today’s young people are passionate and outspoken. They vote with their wallets, they blast their opinions on social media, and they are quick to cancel anyone or anything that doesn’t align with their values. Gen Z’s estimated spending power is over $360 billion, and the consumption of dairy in the U.S. has been steadily declining since the 1970s. In order to remain financially and socially relevant, Starbucks should be dropping dairy, not supporting it. Here is my question: Given Gen Z’s aversion to dairy, why doesn’t Starbucks make vegan milk the default option instead of charging more for it?

Question #4, PETA

I have a question on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and our millions of members and supporters. Nearly 10 million cows in the U.S. alone are forced to endure a lifetime of misery for dairy every year. The typical cow spends her entire life confined to a filthy concrete-floored enclosure. When she is only 4 to 5 years old—utterly worn out from a relentless cycle of forced impregnation, birth, and round-the-clock milking—she’ll be crammed onto a truck without food or water, sent to a slaughterhouse, shot in the head with a captive-bolt gun that may or may not stun her, hung up by her legs, slashed across the neck, and left to bleed to death.

Starbucks aspires to do everything “through the lens of humanity.” Members of the board, use that same lens to look at the mistreatment of cows used for dairy. Surely not one of you would agree that endorsing such cruelty could “inspire and nurture the human spirit,” which Starbucks proudly claims is its mission. We ask you this: Knowing that dairy is the product of immense suffering, environmental destruction, and dietary racism, how do you justify supporting and even actively promoting its consumption by continuing to impose an “ethical tax” on vegan milks?

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