British coffee chain Costa Coffee is facing a boycott after they defended a mural depicting a trans-identified female with mastectomy scars painted on one of their coffee vans.
James Esses, a pro-child safeguarding campaigner, first drew attention to the image on Monday afternoon in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
“Dear Costa Coffee, could you kindly explain why you are glorifying irreversible surgery performed on healthy breasts of women for a mental health condition,” Esses asked.
The mural was later identified online as the work of Ashton Attz, a 23-year-old paint and illustrator. Attz’s work is described on Creative Debuts as celebrating “moments of everyday life and what makes us who we are,” along with portraying “the endless identities and diverse expressions of the everyday person.”
Esses noted that Attz has illustrated a children’s book, featuring the very same art style, with fairies and goblins with visible double mastectomy scars.
Following Esses’s post, #BoycottCostaCoffee began trending on X, with hundreds of users posting that they would never frequent the chain again.
Responding to the controversy, Costa Coffee appeared to double-down on the mural, defending it as part of their “inclusivity” mandate.
The chain wrote that they “celebrate the diversity of our customers, team members and partners,” and that they “want everyone that interacts with us to experience the inclusive environment that we create, to encourage people to feel welcomed, free and unashamedly proud to be themselves. The mural, in its entirety, showcases and celebrates inclusivity.”
But some campaign groups are not satisfied with the response, labeling the imagery “harmful” towards vulnerable young women.
“It’s disgustingly irresponsible of Costa to suggest-sell – even glorify – mental distress, bodily dissociation and self-harm among teenage girls,” Helen Joyce, the director of advocacy group Sex Matters, told The Telegraph. “Costa presumably thinks it’s being ‘inclusive’ with this messaging; in fact it’s helping to fuel a social contagion and medical scandal masquerading as a social-justice movement.”
Talk TV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer argued the mural was not celebrating diversity, but celebrating the “medical mutilation of a healthy woman’s body by removing perfectly healthy breast tissue,” and that it in comparison, it would be insane to defend someone who chose to chop off their own leg to make themselves feel “more comfortable.”
Speaking to Hartley-Brewer, the pro-trans Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle instead claimed it was “great” that Costa was “celebrating some people’s bodies… I think there is a body that exists in society.”
“There should be a medical process to ensure [mastectomies for trans-identified women] should happen safely, and if that process has happened, I don’t think it is for you or I to be judgemental about that,” he continued. “It’s about us trying to celebrate the diversity of how people live, not how we want people to live in a perfect world.”