On Monday, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit to stop the Tillamook County Creamery Association from advertising images of cows happily grazing the bucolic rolling green hills of the Oregon Coast.
The suit maintains the ads are deceptive, saying that two thirds of the milk used actually comes from an industrial farm.
“The Threemile Canyon facility — with 32,000 dairy cows and a total of 70,000 cattle — is comprised of concrete or “barren dirt feedlots” and “robotic carousels” that milk the “continuously confined” animals,” according to papers filed by the plaintiff. The facility is 230 miles from the coastal landscape portrayed in the ads.
“Boardman is flat, arid, and often swelteringly hot — nothing like Tillamook County,” the suit alleges. “And the mega-dairy in Boardman is so large that it is visible from space.”
If you live in Oregon, you know Tillamook produces cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and butter.
High Powered Attorney, Big Dollar Damages
The suit alleges consumers paid a premium for Tillamook products because they wished to support small, pasture-based dairies and were unaware of “the truth — that the vast majority of the milk sourced for Tillamook products comes from a massive factory farm in Eastern Oregon where cows are never allowed to graze on grass.”
According to The Oregonian, Animal Legal Defense Fund staff attorney Amanda Howell says the fund plans to amend their suit to ask for $200 in compensation for every Oregonian allegedly misled by Tillamook’s marketing campaign. Howell also pointed out that could mean hundreds of thousands of consumers, which could see damages run into the tens of millions of dollars if the class action suit is successful.
According to the lawsuit, Tillamook’s 2017 revenues reached $800m, and they could reach $1 billion in annual revenues soon.
The suit was filed in Multnomah County by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which is headquartered in California, and Portland attorney David Sugerman as co-counsel.
Sugerman is a high profile attorney, and is the same attorney that represented 1.7 million Oregonians against BP Oil for charging a 35 cent debit card fee without notifying consumers at the pump. The effected consumers started getting checks last month, and will ultimately receive $185 each.
Association Challenges Lawsuit
The defendant released a statement in response:
“The Tillamook County Creamery Association adamantly disagrees with the allegations made in the lawsuit and we will aggressively defend ourselves,” the statement read. “Tillamook takes great pride in being a farmer-owned and farmer-led co-op, and we only work with business partners that share our values and live up to our extremely high standards.” The statement went on to say that 80 farming families own and lead the company.
The association also stated their view that the Animal Legal Defense Fund “is anti-dairy and actively advocates for people to cut all dairy products from their diets.” The association also claims the milk from eastern Oregon is produced just as humanely as the milk produced in Tillamook.