Starbucks and Pumpkin Spice
A vegan walks into a Starbucks and orders a pumpkin spiced soy latte. Later he discovers that the spice mix contained condensed milk. Understandably, he gets angry, starts a change.org petition for Starbucks to use a vegan spice mix, and makes national news.
Although he had no way of knowing it, he also landed me—the token vegan runner in my running group— on the hot seat this morning with a bunch of highly intelligent runners who wanted me to explain why, in a world of considerable toil and trouble, this spice thing mattered. “Very rich white person troubles, no?” said one friend.
I had to admit she had a point. I mean, getting peeved about condensed milk power in a spice mix at Starbucks is sort of like walking into slaughterhouse and getting angry that they’re not using humane mouse traps. It’s arbitrary.
While I really want to defend the vegan’s right to both transparency and hope in the good faith of companies to do what’s right by animals when the option exists, I can’t help but conclude that this little protest would have been far more effective had the vegan just made a personal choice never to frequent Starbucks again. The petition, and national attention that followed, looked trivial and, in light of the Starbuck’s context, it was.
The petition, however, does remind us that vegans are on the verge of numerical significance. Still, an incident like this might have been handled more effectively if we used our growing numbers to highlight how large food companies routinely sneak unknown ingredients into the food and drinks we purchase. We might have made this more than a vegan issue, but also a public health issue, thereby pulling in more non-vegans to think about our food supply in more critical terms, rather than looking petulant over pumpkin spice.