Happy Cows? Not so Fast

PETA says California dairies aren't being truthful when they talk about the conditions or those cows.

Published on: Jun 17, 2011

The ad campaigns have been clear: Happy Cows Make Better (fill in your favorite dairy product here). But the folks at the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, aren't so sure and they've filed a lawsuit to find out. The group has sued the California Department of Food and Agriculture, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and the California Milk Advisory Board for making "false and misleading advertising claims about the treatment of cows on California dairy farms."

The complaint alleges that the CDFA and the board have deceived the public by falsely representing to consumers that California's dairy products come from cows who live in a bucolic setting and are "happy," comfortable, and humanely treated. In reality, PETA says typical California dairy cows are kept confined on "hard, abrasive concrete or manure-laden dirt. They commonly suffer udder infections, painful swollen knees, and hoof disorders such as foot rot, ulcers, and abscesses, resulting in lameness and premature death," PETA asserts.

According to PETA, CDFA is required to ensure that the milk advisory board does not make baseless marketing claims, but in response to public record requests for documents related to the ads, the group says CDFA did a 6-month search and found thousands of records but not a "single document that substantiates the board's false marketing claims." The animal rights group disagrees with the finding.

PETA is asking the Court to order the CDFA and the milk advisory board to stop running the ads and to turn over all documents responsive to PETA's public records request that are currently being unlawfully withheld by the CDFA on "trade secret" grounds. PETA's aim is apparently to prove that those cows couldn't be happy raised like they are on California daires. The group wants access to those documents, which CDFA is denying; now the courts will decide.