California dairy farmers behind the state’s "Happy Cows" dairy ads have been ordered by a state Superior Court to answer questions from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), according to Merced Sun-Star newspaper.
The order came in response to a lawsuit filed by PETA against the California Milk Advisory Board for “making false and misleading advertising claims about the treatment of cows on California dairy farms and for withholding thousands of related documents that PETA believes will expose the extent of their false claims,” the group said in a statement last summer.
Martina Bernstein, senior litigation council for PETA, claims the milk board has no evidence to support its pro-dairy campaigns that promote the health, safety and comfort of California dairy cows.
"The milk advisory board continues to tell consumers about the great standards of care that cows receive," Bernstein said in the Merced Sun-Star report. "There has been absolutely no evidence to that fact. If they have this evidence, they should be required to show it."
After the court's latest order, PETA attorneys will have opportunity to question members of the milk board over the next two months.
PETA has a history of targeting California’s dairy industry. The Sacramento Business Journal reports that the milk board was sued by PETA in 2002. The action ended in 2005 when courts found that the board, as a quasi-state agency, could not be sued under California’s unfair-competition law. PETA filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in 2009.
If PETA wins its latest lawsuit, both the milk board and the agriculture department, that certified the campaign could be found in violation of the California Market Act and California Milk Marketing Order,. A ruling in favor of PETA would require the board to provide evidence before making claims about dairy industry conditions.