(Updated January 28, 2020) | American ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s has dropped claims that the dairy it uses in its products comes from “happy cows.” The move follows a lawsuit filed last October.
The animal welfare lawsuit accuses Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever of false advertising.
In the complaint, environmental advocate James Ehlers pointed out that Ben & Jerry’s often gets the milk and cream for its desserts from “factory-style, mass-production dairy operations.” This is “in contrast to what Unilever has told consumers.”
Ben & Jerry’s has a Caring Dairy program—which sees farmers attending three workshops aimed at improving sustainability and animal care—however, Ehlers highlights that only some Ben & Jerry’s farmers are a part of it. He said the company had “breached consumer trust.”
In response to the lawsuit, the Vermont-based brand has removed “happy cows” claims from its packaging. It also filed a motion to dismiss the case earlier this month.
“As an initial matter, ‘happy cows’ is non-actionable puffery because it is a statement of opinion, not a statement of fact. Happiness cannot be measured objectively, and [the plaintiff] could not take a cow’s deposition to ask how it feels,” said the statement.
The Problem With Dairy
Cows only produce milk to feed their young. This means factory farms artificially impregnate cows—typically each year—so that they continue to produce milk. According to the Guardian, farmers separate mother cows from their calves “within hours or days of birth.“ In another article, author Chas Newkey-Burden wrote in an op-ed for the publication that “following that callous separation, the mother will bellow and scream for days, wondering where her baby is.”
Farms will send male calves to the veal or beef industries and female calves will go on to produce dairy. A cow’s natural lifespan is around 20 years. Workers generally kill dairy cows are after six years as their bodies can no longer produce milk so intensively.
Ben & Jerry’s Going Vegan
Ben & Jerry’s first strayed from dairy in 2016 when it launched its first-ever vegan line. The frozen desserts were made with an almond milk base and included Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, P.B. & Cookies, and Coffee Caramel Fudge.
Ben & Jerry’s was motivated to create vegan options by demand. “We’ve definitely had a large demand from our consumers to have a non-dairy offering,” said spokesperson Lindsay Bumps.
The ice cream company has since released multiple dairy-free flavors. Vegan ice cream now makes up 25 percent of Ben & Jerry’s “full-time” flavors. The non-dairy pints are available in the U.S., the UK, Australia, and Asia.