Ben & Jerry’s boycotted Israel while using child labor

Selling ice cream in Israel was inconsistent with its values—child labor wasn’t.

Ben & Jerry's products on the shelf of a grocery store. Credit: Arne Beruldsen/Shutterstock.
Ben & Jerry's products on the shelf of a grocery store. Credit: Arne Beruldsen/Shutterstock.
Daniel Greenfield
Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli-born journalist who writes for conservative publications.

No company has been as vocal about fighting for migrants and exploiting them.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: human beings can’t be illegal,” the ice cream maker declared. Its advocacy for illegal migrants even led to a clash with the British government, which told it to “stick to ice cream.” In the United States, the leftist brand debuted a new flavor, “Pecan Resist,” and bragged that it would “resist the Trump administration’s regressive and discriminatory policies” and build a future for “refugees and immigrants.”

The ugly truth behind the virtue signaling was that Ben & Jerry’s depended on migrant labor to make its overpriced ice cream. A year before Trump took office, the progressive company faced protests by migrant workers, who spoke of having to live in unheated barns during the Vermont winter while milking cows at midnight and being wounded by exploding glass milk bottles.

Ben & Jerry’s claimed that it supported open borders because of the company’s “social mission” and “values.” Those values were measured in dollars and cents. The milk that went into the company’s ice cream depended on the cheap labor of those same migrants. Open borders wasn’t an abstraction, it was a steady source of labor to be churned into ice cream.

When the Biden administration rammed open the southern borders, flooding the country with millions of migrants, adult migrant workers were quickly supplemented by children.

A New York Times investigation found that Ben & Jerry’s was among the corporate brands benefiting from child labor. Of the various companies, Ben & Jerry’s was the most shameless about the use of child labor, with Cheryl Pinto, its head of “values-led sourcing,” stating that “if migrant children needed to work full time, it was preferable for them to have jobs at a well-monitored workplace.” It’s an argument straight out of “Oliver Twist.”

Pinto, a former risk manager for Ben & Jerry’s Unilever parent company, had been dubbed the ice-cream maker’s “sorceress” regarding her focus on positive social impact. The sorcery turns out to have been of the Hansel and Gretel variety.

Behind all the buzzwords about “equity” and “climate justice” are the children working so that Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield can get even richer.

Ben & Jerry’s has a lot of experience with “well-monitored workplaces” for child labor. The company, which has boasted of its support for Black Lives Matter, had been previously accused of benefiting from the slave labor of eight-year-olds on cocoa plantations in Africa, vanilla plantations in Madagascar and palm tree plantations in Indonesia.

The open borders that Ben & Jerry’s had advocated for brought child labor to America.

In 2021, a Ben & Jerry’s franchise owner in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was caught employing 12-year-olds, but the latest revelations about the company are a good deal worse.

The New York Times story describes a 14-year-old migrant boy who had his hand crushed in an industrial milking machine on a dairy farm. While the paper does not name the company, Ben & Jerry’s sources milk from farms in Middlebury, Vermont, where the accident took place.

Ben & Jerry’s and Pinto had previously made headlines for reaching an agreement with Milk With Dignity, a migrant workers group, at which one worker boasted that “I never had a day off before the program. But now I have two days off per month.” Ben & Jerry’s claimed that its partnership with Milk With Dignity means that the farms it uses no longer exploit anybody.

“Respect for human rights is one of our core values,” Pinto claimed.

The Milk With Dignity code goes so far as to bar “the threat or use of sexual or physical assault” against workers, which is pretty noble of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Nothing says respect for human rights like agreeing not to sexually assault workers.

But the code only bars “systemic unlawful child labor.” That’s quite a few loopholes in just four words. The full wording in the code defines “the use of systemic unlawful child labor, as defined by applicable law in the jurisdiction in which the farm is located.” That’s as good as an admission. Child labor can be systemic or it can be unlawful, but it can’t be both systemic and unlawful.

Behind the meaningless organic labels and the images of bucolic cows and photogenic hipster farmers marketed by progressive upselling brands like Ben & Jerry’s is a dairy industry that, despite its location across the country, looks a lot like California’s illegal alien farms.

A local paper described “the coyotes who smuggle migrants across the border, the people who run safe houses, the van drivers who make regular interstate and cross-country runs, and the farmers are part of a complex, underground system powered by cell phones and money.”

“Sex traffickers are a small part of that network. Most of the dairy workers are young men stuck on rural farms with no transportation. Enter the pimps who, exploiting the loneliness and isolation of the workers, drive women to remote farms. A prostitution ring in Vermont came to light in 2011, when police arrested two men who brought women to have sex with workers for $60 a trick.”

“They just bring girls, Mexicans and Colombians, mostly Latinas,” Carlos, who came to the country as an “unaccompanied minor,” told a journalist.

That’s the grim reality: Behind all the hipster brands and leftist politics, the cutesy celebrity names, the photos of woke icons like Stephen Colbert and Ava DuVernay, are Mexican teens living in unheated barns and working to milk cows twice a day in between visits to trafficked girls. It’s little wonder that Ben & Jerry’s keeps searching for new radical causes to embrace.

In 2021, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it was joining a boycott of Israel because selling ice cream in the Jewish state was “inconsistent with our values.” The move came at the behest of Anuradha Mittal, the Ben & Jerry’s social justice board chairwoman, who had defended Hamas and Hezbollah and whose offices were decorated with a “Support the Intifada” poster.

Selling ice cream in Israel was inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values—child labor wasn’t.

Ben & Jerry’s support for BDS and for other radical leftist causes like BLM came as it was trying to divert attention from the products and processes at the heart of its business. Its social justice logorrhea has led the company in just the last month to endorse critical race theory as a “long-overdue correction to the whitewashed history taught in most American schools,” to claim that brain injuries are worse for black people and to endorse slavery reparations. Much like hating Israel, none of this has anything to do with ice cream. And that’s the whole point.

Like a criminal in police custody, Ben & Jerry’s would like to talk about anything and everything in the world except its own crimes. Smearing Israel, America, Jews, white people and anyone else is a convenient distraction from the fact that the social-justice ice cream empire is built on child labor and on the open borders it champions and whose exploitation it benefits from.

Ben & Jerry’s talks nonstop about its values. What are its actual values, beyond its hashtags about BLM, open borders, Israel, sexism, transphobia and climate justice? As Groucho Marx quipped, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

The company’s true values can be seen in what it does, not what it claims to believe. Some years ago, migrant workers protested in a march to the Ben & Jerry’s factory. A few of the illegal aliens were arrested.

​“We are concerned that hard-working, productive members of our community, who contribute to the success of dairy farms in Vermont, would face criminalization,” Ben & Jerry’s said, in a statement whose tone differed greatly from its usual bellicose social justice tweets. ​“We need policy change that serves Vermont’s dairy workers, farmers, and industry as a whole.”

That was the sound of Ben & Jerry’s talking about the intersectionality of its support for open borders and its business model that depends on illegal aliens.

Those are Ben & Jerry’s real values. They’re not as marketable, but unlike the others, they’re real.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.

This is an edited version of an article first published by FrontPage Magazine.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates