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Peta Blasts Misleading Dairy Ads in California

'Happy Cows' cheese ads called a sad tale Idyllic depiction is false
advertising, animal rights group says

George Raine, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
C2002 San Francisco Chronicle

We have been led to believe that great cheese comes from happy cows,
that happy cows come from California and that bulls talk, mostly about
attractive cows, who seem to flourish in the state's clean air, good
food and sunshine. Now they say this is deceptive advertising?

The ads in question, for the California Milk Advisory Board, depict cows
blessed by the sun, enjoying dreamy California pastures -- but that
representation can't possibly be true, alleges People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals. PETA says dairy cows endure lives of pain,
disease, suffering and work.

PETA said that it plans to file a complaint today with the Federal Trade
Commission in Washington, D.C. The group seeks an investigation of the
"Happy Cows" ad campaign that it believes misleads consumers into
thinking that dairy cows live easy lives. The TV spots, which air only
in California, are unlawfully deceptive, the complaint says.

"The truth is that there's misery in every glass of milk," said Matthew
Penzer, a lawyer for PETA, the animal rights advocacy group based in
Norfolk, Va., which has long assailed dairy industry practices.

The ads, created by Deutsch Inc. Advertising in Los Angeles, show cows
quite comfortable in their surroundings when, PETA says, the reality of
a dairy operation is that cows stand in their fecal waste and, after
they are no longer useful, they're slaughtered.

Even PETA allows the spots are clever. "They have the right to create
ads that are effective, but they are lying to people," said Bruce
Friedrich, a spokesman. "It's like tobacco companies saying smoking will
allow you to live to a ripe old age."

California dairy operations, home to 1.5 million milking cows, produced
33. 1 billion lbs. of milk in 2001, said Nancy Fletcher, a spokeswoman
for the milk advisory board, a marketing group for California dairy
farmers based in South San Francisco. California passed Wisconsin in
milk production in 1993, said Fletcher, and is second only to Wisconsin
in cheese.

It is in the best interest of dairy farmers, said Fletcher, to maintain
cows in comfortable surroundings, employ temperature controls and
provide the animals a quality diet. "If not, they won't produce a lot of
milk," said Fletcher, a third-generation farmer whose grandfather opened
the family dairy in Cerritos (Los Angeles County) in 1917.

Michael Marsh, the CEO of Western United Dairymen in Modesto, a producer
trade association, dismissed the complaint as a publicity stunt. "It's
ludicrous. Anyone who watches the commercials knows they are whimsical
attempts to advertise cheese and the benefits of buying products from
California," he said.

Previous filings at the FTC alleged that another ad campaign, "Got
Milk?," promoted unhealthy products, but they led to no action, said FTC
spokesman Mitchell Katz. That campaign, by Goodby, Silverstein &
Partners of San Francisco, is for the California Milk Processor Board,
based in Berkeley.

In today's complaint, PETA argues the ads' representation that
California cows are kept under conditions of ease and comfort is a
fiction in the majority of California's dairies.

That may be a difficult case to prove. One advertising copywriter
veteran, Rod Kilpatrick of San Francisco, noted that humans long ago
decided to use animals for nourishment and comfort.

"We could either reduce production to the point of scarcity, or switch
to soy cheese, which would constitute cruelty to humans."

E-mail George Raine at


Editor -- As a guy from a local dairy farming family, let's talk
honestly here. Most of us go to the store and buy whatever tastes good,
is affordable and convenient. When we buy our carton of milk, we want to
believe that it's wholesome, nutritious and that the cows that produced
it graze in wide-open, lush pastures. Nice image. But reality is
stranger than fiction.

Unless we all step up to the plate, the few remaining small-scale family
farms that meet those wonderful ideals will simply die. When my dad
started farming in 1941, there were more than 150 small dairies in Marin
County. Now there's about 30. Popping up all over the country are farms
(factories, really) with thousands of cows. Out of sight, out of mind. I
mean, how many of us actually know where our food comes from?

Fortunately, there are alternative for those of us who want to drink our
milk and feel good, too. For dairy and other locally-grown foods, check
out the California Farm Fresh directory at and links at

Point Reyes Station

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