A vegan activist group is suing over allegations that the 500,000 dairy cows slaughtered through the Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) program represented a concerted effort to reduce the milk supply and raise prices.
The Hagens Berman law firm and Compassion Over Killing filed the class action lawsuit
Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It alleges the cow culling unfairly allowed dairy farmers to earn more than $9 billion in additional revenue. The complaint also alleges that CWT targets smaller farmers to cull their herds and allows "agribusiness giants" to unfairly increase profits.
Named as defendants are the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), Dairy Farmers of America, Land O’Lakes and Agri-Mark, Inc.
Compassion Over Killing is seeking restitution, damages, penalties and reimbursement of legal fees.
"A resolution to this case will protect consumers from artificially inflated milk prices and will prevent the unnecessary and shameful killing of tens of thousands of cows each year," says Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman.
Jim Tillison, CEO of the CWT program, released this statement today: "Cooperatives Working Together was created in 2003 as a self-help initiative to assist family dairy farmers and members of dairy cooperatives who were losing money producing milk. The program was designed and has always been operated in a manner fully consistent with the anti-trust laws of the United States.
"The lawsuit filed [Monday] in California at the instigation of a West Coast animal rights group is without merit. NMPF will vigorously defend its actions and those of its member cooperatives and their producers in this lawsuit and expect that those actions will ultimately be vindicated."
The last CWT herd buyout
occurred in 2010, and no further buyouts are planned. Moving forward, CWT plans to rely solely on export enhancement activities to bolster sales and increase demand for U.S. dairy products.