Vegans are typically well aware of the vegan tax – the extra money we pay to order a latte, a pizza, or some other item made vegan instead of with animal products. Substitute plant-based milk for dairy or vegan cheese for dairy cheese at a restaurant, and you can often expect to pay more.
Starbucks is one of the main outlets that’s been charging a vegan tax for years, whereby it costs extra to order a drink with soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk instead of the same drink make with dairy. Lots of other places that offer drinks with plant-based milks also charge extra for it.
Depending on what you order, the vegan tax may be $0.70 to $1.00 for a drink or perhaps $2.50 to $5 more for vegan cheese on a pizza.
Why do places charge this? The short answer is because they can. It makes them extra money to do so. It stems from self-interest.
Vegans pay this tax grudgingly. We’ve gotten used to it, but it remains a sore spot, and it does create a negative impression of any brand or outlet that charges it. I mean… how can vegans not see Starbucks as just a bit assholish for doing this? It’s a greed move – and an unfair one.
The vegan tax positions ordering a vegan item as doing something special or out of the ordinary, so it normalizes animal products. Why should the milk of a raped cow be regarded as normal while some almonds blended in water are treated as special?
I can whip up some almond, cashew, or macadamia nut milk in my kitchen in a minute or two. These are super easy to make. I can also make soy milk using an inexpensive soy milk maker. It’s a bit more involved to get a cow, rape it to make it pregnant, sell its baby for scrap, and drain its tits.
Where there’s an annoyance like this that negatively affects a lot of people, there’s also an opportunity when seen through an entrepreneurial lens.
In some ways this situation is similar to when Blockbuster Video charged late fees back in the day. This policy annoyed customers but nicely padded Blockbuster’s billions. Customers tolerated it for a while, but it also left an opening (one of many) for a competitor to step in and provide a better service.
The vegan tax provides an obvious entrepreneurial opening, and some places are already capitalizing on it. As just one example, I learned of a new coffee place opening up this month in Vegas (where I live) that claims it won’t charge a vegan tax.
Golden Fog Coffee will reflect owners Derek and Juliet Douglas’ plant-based lifestyle where the menu will be 100% vegetarian and will not charge a “vegan tax” or higher prices for plant milks or vegan food items.Source
But note that on the Golden Fog coffee website, they also buy into the framing of normalizing animal products with the label “standard.”
Standard and plant based quick bite items will be available for patrons, as well as a variety of milk alternatives for plant based latte lovers.
If it were me, I’d use the label substandard for animal products. It’s fair to say that a rapey production process qualifies as a lower standard.
Due to government subsidies, a lot of the true cost of animal products is hidden too. So vegans are actually being double taxed.
Overall it’s an unfair economic frame that ought to collapse under its own lameness and greed. But we can help to speed it along by calling out the tax as an unfair one, and we can encourage entrepreneurs who grasp the opportunity for better fairness and service.
We can also encourage better framing, such as by labeling vegan items as normal and non-vegan ones as rapey. 😉