We Are All Animals: Demystifying Starbucks’ Humane Washing

By Lili Trenkova
[For Portuguese language, please visit ANDA’s page for our post.]



It is the year 2015 in the age of technological innovation, disposable comforts and ever-growing income inequality. Yet our collective progress has always come at the expense of “others” – from the very first colonized nations to the non-human animals in factory farms today. How do we rationalize this deliberate injustice? How do we justify a latte readily available to us within 2 minutes of purchasing it at the expense of the forest cut down to grow coffee beans, forest that once provided a home to thousands of animal and plant species? How do we justify it to the coffee plantation workers harvesting the pesticide-laden beans in grueling heat in exchange for mere cents per day? And how do we justify it to the cows, whose babies we take away shortly after birth, only so that we can drink their milk?

Photo by Dominic Greco

Starbucks uses over 140 million gallons of cow’s milk per year, enough to fill 212 Olympic-sized swimming pools! Starbucks is more of a milk company than a coffee company.
Meet Joshua. The day he was born, Joshua was killed and then discarded in a trash can, like garbage. Usually we celebrate a new life, but non-human animals who are born merely to be killed don’t get to enjoy a happy and free life. Cows are treated like milk machines, repeatedly and forcibly impregnated and exploited for the breast milk they produce for their babies. Joshua grew inside his mother for 9 months just as human infants do. He and his mother bonded – just as humans do.

Cows, humans, fish, birds – we are all animals. We all care for our young, we all form bonds with our friends, and we all feel pain from harm. We are all someone.

Neither a latte nor any other convenience can justify someone else’s suffering, even if  that someone is out of our sight. Yet in the globalized capitalistic market we live in, it’s all too easy not to notice the consequences of our choices. Even something as mundane as a latte carries implications for thousands of human and non-human beings. Our lives are so interconnected with the lives of others simply through our actions that the phrase “personal choice” has become a paradox. And yet we are encouraged to believe that our choices only affect us.

It’s time we take responsibility for our choices and actions. It’s time we demand that companies like Starbucks stop exploiting non-human and human animals.  It’s time we all start caring. If we don’t, we won’t have a planet or communities to call home.


We’ve picked Starbucks as a venue for this campaign because it represents one of many examples of the consumerist culture of exploitation – in both corporate “values” and customer demographic.

Starbucks began as a small coffee shop chain in Seattle in the 1970s, and within less than 50 years it has expanded to over 21,000 stores in over 65 countries. This means that two full generations have grown up with the words “venti frappuccino”. Starbucks has become such a ubiquity that we don’t stop to question its values or practices; we only notice it when we need a coffee, a meeting spot or a restroom. This ubiquity is precisely what Starbucks capitalizes on and very successfully. Starbucks stores are everywhere, easily accessible and welcoming of all types of people, from broke college students to investment bankers.


Just because Starbucks has taught us to take it for granted, doesn’t mean we have to, and we shouldn’t. Starbucks may not be as blatant in its exploitation of non-human animals as say KFC, or not as blatant in its exploitation of humans as say The Gap, but this doesn’t mean they should get a “pass” in our ethics department. The reality is that they are a highly profitable corporation in which the higher-ups benefit from the labor and/or suffering of those below – the way any typical corporation is structured.


We’ve also picked Starbucks as a venue because of its demographics. Starbucks customers are almost as diverse as all spectra of the human population: in class, gender, race, age, nationality, et al. The campaign will thus be able to reach a wide variety of people. Since the goal of direct action is to challenge cultural norms, the more diverse the recipients are, the higher the impact will be.


The time has come to hold corporations accountable for their actions. Claims of ethical practices should not be only backed by fanciful advertising, but by unequivocal actions – actions that do not exploit humans, non-humans or the environment. A business simply cannot call itself “ethical” if it exploits any of the three.

*Statistic updated based on Starbucks new data


While Starbucks is mostly known for selling coffee, to keep up with the competition they started carrying food. According to CEO Howard Schultz, the company buys from farmers who are committed to “humane” practices.
Just as with our coffee, Starbucks’ goal is for everything we sell to be produced under high quality and ethical standards. For the food and dairy we serve, this means a commitment to social responsibility standards with animal welfare as a primary focus. We are committed to working with and buying from farmers and suppliers who share our commitment to humane practices throughout an animal’s lifecycle.” -Starbucks Animal Welfare-Friendly Practices

Starbucks promotes speciesism by profiting from the deaths and exploitation of non-human animals. They mask this wrong by calling it “sandwich” or “pastry”.

In addition, Starbucks is pouring this exploitation and killing into our cups. Starbucks uses over 140 million gallons of cow’s milk per year, enough to fill 212 Olympic-sized swimming pools*! Starbucks is a milk company more than a coffee company, and it manages to hide it so well. But it is right there, in everyone’s latte: 18 oz of cow’s milk and 2 oz of coffee.


Collectively Free is not a welfarist community. Our anti-speciesist messaging highlights the individuality of non-human animals and focuses on animal liberation. Instead of telling consumers to switch to soy milk to help animals (therefore contributing to the commodification of animals once more by treating them as products), we devote our energy to present the continuity between human animals and non-human animals, utilizing a series of creative methods.

Soy milk is definitely important, but our goal is not to create passive potential vegans. Instead, we seek to energize and inspire everyone to take action. You can find more detailed information about veganism and animal liberation here.


No. We are interested in reaching out to Starbucks’ customers and employees to cause social change by reminding them of the lives that were commodified and lost for a drink, pastry or sandwich. If everyone stopped buying from Starbucks, trillions of animals would still be killed. This is why we need each and every of you to disrupt speciesism.


We are an Animal Rights group and while we acknowledge other types of oppression and their intersection, our focus is on the animals. Non-human animals’ voices are silenced behind closed doors, and they depend on activists to hear their voice and to open those doors.
However we strive to be an all-inclusive community and we will continue to do so. We cannot fight one oppression without acknowledging others. Join us today and help build an event stronger movement!

It’s simple!

  1. Download all the materials for this campaign here.
  2. Identify a Starbucks where you live. Start the process of intervention (to learn how to easily organize an action click here).


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