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REFILE-Ben & Jerry's is sued over 'happy cows' claim

Fri, 8th Nov 2019 21:26

(Corrects day the lawsuit was filed to Oct. 29 from Oct. 31 in
paragraph 5)

By Jonathan Stempel

Nov 8 (Reuters) - Ben & Jerry's has been sued by an
environmental advocate who said it deceived consumers by touting
that the milk and cream it uses to make ice cream came
exclusively from "happy cows."

In a complaint filed last week, James Ehlers said Ben &
Jerry's "breached consumer trust" by representing that the milk
and cream were sourced from cows on Vermont dairies that
participate in its "Caring Dairy" program.

Ehlers said less than half the milk and cream actually came
from "happy cows," with the rest coming from "factory-style,
mass-production" dairy operations.

He said the deception enabled Ben & Jerry's and its parent
Unilever Plc to charge premium prices, unjustly
enriching themselves and violating a Vermont consumer protection
law.

The proposed class action filed on Oct. 29 in the federal
court in Burlington, Vermont seeks damages for ice cream
purchasers nationwide and in Vermont, and to stop Ben & Jerry's
from claiming its milk and cream came from "happy cows" on
"Caring Dairy" farms.

Ben & Jerry's spokeswoman Laura Peterson said the company
does not discuss pending lawsuits, but was "committed to
building a resilient, regenerative dairy supply" and considered
its Caring Dairy program "the most progressive in the industry."

According to Ben & Jerry's website, the Caring Dairy program
requires participating farms to meet a variety of standards to
ensure the humane treatment of cows (https://www.benjerry.com/whats-new/2016/caring-dairy-standards).

Ben & Jerry's was founded in 1978 in a renovated gas
station, and has long positioned itself as socially conscious.

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch food company, bought Ben & Jerry's
in August 2000.

Ehlers was a candidate for governor of Vermont last year,
but lost in the Democratic primary.

The case is Ehlers v Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc et al, U.S.
District Court, District of Vermont, No. 19-00194.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York
Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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