Killing Cows to Fix Milk Prices? Lawsuit Against Dairy Industry Grows

Class-action lawsuit by dairy consumers gains traction.
Dairy producers slaughtered cows to boost the price of milk. Will they pay for it? (Georgeowensfx/Creative Commons)
Nov 22, 2011
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

How to make the value on milk go up in a hurry? "Lay to rest" the cows that produce it.

That's what a class-action lawsuit filed by dairy consumers says the Virginia-based National Milk Producers Federation and its affiliated trade group, Cooperatives Working Together, did when times got tough. Since that suit was first filed two months ago, with research support from animal advocacy group Compassion Over Killing, two more class-actions have been filed.

On October 28 new plaintiffs were added to the original class-action in California and a very similar suit was filed in Minnesota federal court on October 27 (according to the suit's attorney Dan Gustafson).

The original suit accuses milk producers of violating antitrust laws for slaughtering 500,000 cows between 2003 and 2010 in order to raise milk prices, reports the Huffington Post. The suit alleges that the slaughters occurred as part of a $9.5 billion program that reduced the nation's milk supply by 10 billion pounds.

In a statement released in late September, Jim Tillison, chief operating office of CWT, called the suit "without merit" and promised the National Milk Producers Federation "will vigorously defend its actions."

General counsel for Compassion Over Killing, Cheryl Leahy, isn't backing down. "Consumers need to know that the dairy industry is not all happy cows and green pastures, as industry advertisements would like us all to believe."

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