Ben & Jerry’s has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that slams the Vermont-based ice cream company for falsely characterizing its dairy products as coming solely from “happy cows" because the suit allegedly fails to make any actual claim against the company, court papers state.
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“How happy is a cow?” states the motion to dismiss, which was filed by defendants Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on Monday in federal court in Vermont. “What should be the first line of a riddle is now the major premise of a lawsuit…to the extent a reasonable consumer bought Ben & Jerry’s ice cream because he wanted to support the humane treatment of cows, he got exactly what he paid for.”
An online version of the motion was posted by Insurancejournal.com.
Environmental activist James Ehlers filed the lawsuit in late October alleging false advertising on the product labeling and the website for purporting that the milk and dairy products come exclusively from happy cows, according to the recent filing. Ehlers' attorney did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.
Ehlers said many of the farms that produce the milk and cream are factory-style, mass-production dairy operations.
“[H]e alleges that the website then led him to believe that all the dairy Ben & Jerry’s uses is exclusively ‘sourced from 'happy cows’ on special farms,'” the motion states. “But the website also does not make this claim. It contains dozens of links that provide information on Ben & Jerry’s social and environmental programs, including its 'Caring Dairy' program.”
But still, Ehlers apparently came to his “happy cow” conclusion from a heading on the company’s website that states: “Basic standards for being a Caring Dairy farmer (required for all farmers),” the document states.
The Caring Dairy program – meant to promote humane dairy practices among qualifying farms by offering premiums – is voluntary, according to court papers.
“Plaintiff appears to be alleging that he interpreted ‘all farmers’ to mean ‘all farmers that supply dairy to Ben & Jerry’s,’ rather than all farmers participating in the Caring Dairy program,” the motion states.
In court papers filed Tuesday, Ben & Jerry's attorney Walter E. Judge submitted a screengrab of an archived webpage, which showed the header that Ehlers would have seen. He also provided examples of the carton labels for Phish Food, Americone Dream, The Tonight Dough, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Mint Chocolate Cookie and New York Super Fudge.
The webpage heading in question has since been changed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.