Challenging Fairlife’s Deceptive Marketing Practices
Alain Michael v. Fairlife LLC
The Animal Legal Defense Fund joined forces with multiple law firms to bring a class action lawsuit against dairy company Fairlife alleging deceptive marketing practices.
Class Action Lawsuits Consolidated
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In November 2019, the Animal Legal Defense Fund joined forces with multiple law firms to bring a class action lawsuit against Fairlife LLC, an Illinois-based dairy company owned by Coca-Cola and Select Milk Producers, Inc. The lawsuit alleges deceptive marketing practices designed to “humane-wash” Fairlife’s products.
Several lawsuits were filed against Fairlife following an undercover investigation conducted by the animal protection group Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) at Fair Oaks Farm, the company’s “flagship farm” in Indiana. (These lawsuits have been consolidated into this class action.) On June 4, 2019, ARM released a four-minute video documenting egregious abuse of calves at the farm — including calves who were stabbed with steel bars, hit in the face with hard plastic milking bottles, kneed in the spine, and subjected to extreme temperatures sometimes leading to death. A second, extended video was released by ARM on June 7, 2019, showing more footage of abuse at Fair Oaks Farm.
Animal Recovery Mission subsequently released two more investigations showing similar animal abuse against mothers and their calves at other dairies associated with Fairlife and Select Milk Producers. These videos show the abuse at Fair Oaks Farm is not anomalous, as Fairlife has argued.
As consumers become more aware of the cruelty in factory farming, demand grows for animal products produced in less abusive conditions. In marketing its milk products, Fairlife claims it “provide[s] extraordinary animal care.” But contrary to Fairlife’s marketing, its milk actually comes from animals who are subjected to severe abuse and horrific industry practices intrinsic to operating a dairy where thousands of cows are crowded together and treated as milk machines. Consumers who care about animal well-being relied on Fairlife’s representations and paid a premium for milk that they believed came from cows who had a higher standard of living and were not abused.
Who is being sued, why, and under what law: Dairy company Fairlife is facing a class action lawsuit alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and violations of state consumer protection laws.
What court is the lawsuit filed in: The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated multiple lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Why this case is important: Increasing public concern regarding the treatment of animals raised for food has led to a phenomenon called “humane-washing” where companies induce conscientious consumers to buy products based on false promises of “better” animal treatment. This deceptive marketing hurts consumers, animals, and plant-based companies offering truly humane options.
Undercover investigations on factory farms and slaughterhouses have brought severe animal abuses to light in recent years. These abuses are systemic and are not isolated incidents. Cows used by the dairy industry are forcibly impregnated and kept pregnant almost continuously to maintain milk production, and their calves are taken from them immediately after birth to be thrust into the endless line of abused and suffering animals on factory farms. Once the cows stop producing sufficient milk, they’re transported to slaughter.
Abuse is built into the factory farm model, and virtually all animal products sold in stores come from factory farms. Instead of addressing systemic cruelty in animal agriculture, some companies have merely changed their marketing to fraudulently capitalize on consumers’ concern for the welfare of animals. These tactics deprive consumers of the ability to make meaningful, informed decisions about their purchases and allow companies to continue profiting off of cruelty despite evolving consumer preferences.
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