Class-action Complaint Alleges Industry-wide Scheme to Raise Price of Milk by Killing Over 500,000 Cows

September 28, 2011 03:55 AM
 

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Observers see action as publicity move against animal agriculture


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


Seattle-based Hagens Berman, a class-action law firm, on behalf of several dairy consumers, including Compassion Over Killing (COK) members, recently filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of consumers alleging that various dairy companies and trade groups, including the National Milk Producers Federation, Dairy Farmers of America, and other entities combined to form Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) in order to fix the price of milk in the United States.

CWT is a trade group representing dairy producers throughout the country who produce nearly 70 percent of the milk consumed in the United States.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on Sept. 26, 2011, alleges that between 2003 and 2010, more than 500,000 cows were slaughtered under CWT's dairy herd retirement program in a concerted effort to reduce the supply of milk and inflate its price nationally. According to the complaint, the increased price allowed CWT members to earn more than $9 billion in additional revenue.

The plaintiffs in the case are represented by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, LLP. The case was initially researched and developed by Compassion Over Killing, a national animal protection organization.

"We believe this case serves two important causes," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. "A resolution to this case will protect consumers from artificially-inflated milk prices and also will prevent the unnecessary and shameful killing of tens of thousands of cows each year."

"The dairy industry has consistently shown its lack of regard for animal welfare and the environment," said Compassion Over Killing general counsel Cheryl Leahy. "Now it's milking its own consumers by unlawfully jacking up prices. The dairy industry must be held accountable for these illegal profits."

The complaint further alleges that the program, which paid smaller farm owners to kill their entire dairy cow herds, unfairly increased the profits of agribusiness giants.

Dairy herd retirement ended in the summer of 2010, but CWT's tactics may affect the price of milk for years, according to the lawsuit.

Jim Tillison, Chief Operating Office of Cooperatives Working Together, issued the following statement:

"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 yesterday in California at the instigation of a west coast animal rights group is without merit. National Milk Producers Federation 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."


Comments: Most see this as a publicity stunt against animal agriculture. Others note the dairy industry is protected under Capper-Volstead. Still others note the CWT has been a voluntary program and was not required – there were no stings attached.


 

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


 


 

 

 

 

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