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Ben & Jerry's Cloning Hoax Backfires

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Ben & Jerry's lied and I'm pretty *issed about it. The company's owners -- I assume their names are Ben and Jerry -- or does the company lie about that, too? -- created a fake website that promotes cloned milk, in a deceptive attempt to discourage people from buying milk from cloned cows.

The ice cream folks intended to reveal the truth about CycloneDairy.com on April Fool's Day, or so they say. We'll never know the truth because bloggers William K. Wolfrum and Vance Lehmkuhl outed the hoax earlier this week through good sleuthing.

Today the Cyclone Dairy homepage says: "Just kidding about Cyclone Dairy. NOT kidding about clones in our food."

Yesterday, the Cyclone Dairy site baited readers with a bogus FAQ designed to ignite the anti-cloning crowd:

Q. Are there any ethical issues about cloning?

A. No.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not for cloning cows. But to scare monger by creating a realistic-looking website sponsored by a supposed cloned-milk dairy is a sophomoric way to influence the conversation. Ben & Jerry's called it a "joke" and said they were just "testing the waters." But very little about CycloneDairy.com looked like satire. And by not being genuinely funny, the site failed to attract much attention, certainly not enough to test the waters. (Note to Ben & Jerry's creative team: writing comedy is a lot harder than it looks. The Daily Show just makes it look easy.)

Why do I care about this? I've said it before: with newspapers going the way of the buggy whip, journalism is migrating to the internet and it's important readers can trust what they read -- at the very least from companies like Ben & Jerry's who brag about having more soul than the average manufacturer.

For more on Ben & Jerry's crazy cloned food crusade, read this. To read the Sept. 2008 PETA letter asking Ben and Jerry's to please use human breast milk in their products, read this, if only to prove I didn't make it up.

To read about Wolfrum's juicier internet detective work, read this, this, and this. If we're going to clone anything, we ought to clone Wolfrum.