Seattle attorney Steve Berman says the scheme was simple. California dairy farmers would exterminate thousands of healthy cows in California, thus driving up the prices of milk, cheese, and other dairy products nationwide, and in turn making billions of dollars for the farmers.
KOMO reports that a class-action lawsuit has been filed by the group Compassion Over Killing, with Berman as its lawyer.
He says that about 500,000 healthy cows were killed in the price-fixing scheme.
"The cooperatives got together and instituted what we'll call a killing program; they retired cows," he said. Berman said the milk producers called it "dairy herd retirement," but he insists it was a way to cheat consumers and line their own pockets.
"Using their own numbers, we calculated conservatively that [they] raised the price of milk over a seven-year period by $10 billion," Berman said.
The allegations, if true, would certainly point to extreme cruelty in the dairy industry. But frankly, tales of cruelty to farm animals are nothing new.
What's more important, legally speaking, says Berman, is the possible gross violation of the nation's antitrust laws.
"You can not get together and agree to stabilize and maintain prices," said Berman. "That is the bedrock principle of our antitrust laws."