John Doyle gives raw milk “ink” in the Globe and Mail in a review of tonight’s raw milk movie on CBC Newsworld

Never mind that he thinks it’s all a bunch of neo-romantic claptrap — that’s just the standard skeptical reporter mindset. What matters is that he’s telling readers about tonight’s movie and they’re going to be so curious and intrigued, wondering whether what he says is true, that they’ll sit themselves down and watch it. Then they’ll make up their own minds. So it’s all good. Still, it is fun to hear how John disses Michael Schmidt and the whole idea of raw milk. I wonder what John Doyle drinks. Here’s a bit of what he has to say in his column today titled “What Marie Antoinette and Michael Schmidt have in common”:

“…Raw Milk Crusader: Michael Schmidt (Newsworld’s The Lens, 10 p.m.) is about the Ontario farmer who has made the distribution and consumption of unpasteurized milk into an evangelical cause. It’s a fascinating documentary with many passionate declarations on whether farmers should be allowed to sell raw milk and the public should be allowed to consume it. It’s rich in irony.

It’s also an enraging program, largely because the real issue is the existence of the urban bourgeoisie’s delusion of invincibility, ignorance about science and tendency to posture in order to justify selfishness.

Schmidt himself is a fascinating character, self-mythologizing relentlessly and shrewdly. He’s always in a hat or cap and presents himself as an artist. No doubt his little farm is clean and well-run, but when Schmidt and his cabal of celebrity-chef supporters appear together and prattle on about taste and claim to be against “big business,” they’re just nitwits.

They posit a farming world of green pastures, cute cows and earnest farmers dutifully engaged, at every step, in protecting the health of those who consume their products. Well, if only it were so. A little model farm such as Schmidt’s is not representative. It’s a fantasy version of reality.

Schmidt himself says in the doc, “It is an issue of the freedom to farm and freedom of choice for every consumer in this province and country. Bureaucracy and government is governing us as if we cannot think.”

What utter twaddle. The pasteurization of milk is about the prevention of milk-borne Mycobacterium bovis (that is, non-pulmonary tuberculosis), as well as typhoid and salmonella, that are commonly found to be present in raw milk. Pasteurization was a major landmark in the struggle to keep children and the elderly safe from a variety of disease. It made the world a better place. It’s not some cockamamie notion invented to stop the urban middle class from having a more piquant taste in their milk or cheese. La-di-da.

Sure, there are, as the doc points out, places in the world where raw milk is produced and sold. In the European instances, the farms producing raw milk are very heavily regulated – usually at a high cost partly carried by the farm itself – and in the United States (as is also pointed out in the program) the allowing of raw milk has led to an increased level of children being infected by E. coli. Little wonder that some of the scientists and food regulation officials interviewed for the program roll their eyes in frustration….”

Read the whole column here.

BTW, I know what Marie Antoinette and Michael Schmidt have in common; they both drank raw milk. Only, in Marie’s case, her “crimes against the state” were not raw-milk related!

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “John Doyle gives raw milk “ink” in the Globe and Mail in a review of tonight’s raw milk movie on CBC Newsworld

  1. thebovine

    Just by way of a little “refutation” of John Doyle’s hysteria about germs and how pasteurization was brought in to kill them and prevent disease, I’d like to draw readers’ attention to the enlightening document featured in this post on the bovine:The Crime Against Raw Milk. From this we learn how pasteurization was brought in for the convenience of dairies and that supposed health issues with raw milk were just a trumped-up charge.

  2. Graham

    My first reaction to this column was rage—calling us nitwits? We need to make the point that he is tragically uninformed, like most of the public, because of the decades of official propaganda. He needs to be given references where he can learn that there have been more cases of infection from pasteurized than unpasteurized milk in some areas, that pasteurization kills the good bacteria in milk, that simply good farming practices will prevent the risk of infection, for which random inspections could be arranged more easily than forcing pasteurization, etc. He needs sober, scientific information, if he is not going to persist in seeing us as crazy fanatics.

  3. thebovine

    Graham,

    This is deeply ingrained stuff. We’re not going to “convert” everybody. I think if we’re going to take the trouble to write stuff, the better outlet for it is the public forums like the ones on the CBC website, rather than privately writing to a columnist whose specialty is television.

    That said, there is something to be said for publicly countering statements against raw milk. In his book “Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics”, author and political strategist Warren Kinsella put forward the idea that you should be ready to counter anything your opponents say within a matter of hours. Not that in our case anyone is going to come to a press conference we call to counter something John Doyle writes in his column in the Globe.

    Generally though, I feel that “no publicity is bad publicity”. So even if they’re slandering raw milk, they’re still putting it front and centre in the public mind. And lots of people won’t buy their slanders.

  4. Paul

    Dear John Doyle,
    I am glad to hear that you have somehow become part of the Raw Milk Issue. I say this because you are a very good writer and so you have the power to get a message across. I am sorry John, but I disagree with your opinion in this article. What I hope is that your opinion is simply yours – and not that you have been paid off to create this opinion. I also hope that you have an open mind and are capable of hearing and processing facts that may not have been presented to you about raw milk and today’s society in general. I hope after hearing some of the information I wish to present to you, you will be able to write another article – one that supports the sale of raw milk. With your writing skills and position with the Globe and Mail, you can probably help this much needed change in the dairy industry.

    My comments to you are within your writings, so please read on:

    Raw Milk Crusader: Michael Schmidt (Newsworld’s The Lens, 10 p.m.) is about the Ontario farmer who has made the distribution and consumption of unpasteurized milk into an evangelical cause. It’s a fascinating documentary with many passionate declarations on whether farmers should be allowed to sell raw milk and the public should be allowed to consume it. It’s rich in irony.
    It’s also an enraging program, largely because the real issue is the existence of the urban bourgeoisie’s delusion of invincibility, ignorance about science and tendency to posture in order to justify selfishness.
    You must realize that science today is much different from the past, naturally. In some cases today, scientific studies and investigations may be about progress, and improvements. However unfortunately, science today is also about money (and sometimes so are articles written like the one you have written here – I hope that this not the case). It is not difficult to pay someone to present partial or completely invalid results in order to profit. Decisions made today by some government officials and managers of certain agencies are sometimes made not for progress or improvement but for money – even at the sacrifice of progress or improvements, or even at the sacrifice of people’s health in general. It is very sad sir, but this is a fact.

    You have made a grave mistake by assuming that the people who believe they are healthier and better off drinking raw milk, have made that decision because they are ignorant about science, or because they are selfish. Do you really think such a large group of people who have been drinking raw milk for so many years have come together to fight for the right to drink raw milk for no other reason than the simple fact that they have experienced only positive results? You must ask yourself why so many people have developed such strong supportive feelings toward raw milk – especially if there is so many so called consequences for consuming it? Maybe in reality, scientists or government officials of the past, whether because of money, or because of ignorance at the time of decisions made, were wrong in their decision to begin pasteurizing raw milk? What if new facts are being presented today that show that raw milk is extremely healthy? Do you remember a time when “scientists” told the general population to avoid eating egg yolks because they contain cholesterol? At that time there was hard evidence and the major scientific community agreed that the consumption of egg yolks was unhealthy. But now you see the opposite opinion is held by the scientific community because further investigations and research has uncovered more information about both cholesterol and eggs. Is this example not enough to at least open your mind to the possibility that these “nitwits” that claim raw milk improves their lives may be on to something?

    Schmidt himself is a fascinating character, self-mythologizing relentlessly and shrewdly. He’s always in a hat or cap and presents himself as an artist. No doubt his little farm is clean and well-run, but when Schmidt and his cabal of celebrity-chef supporters appear together and prattle on about taste and claim to be against “big business,” they’re just nitwits.
    Although you are a good writer, it is unfortunate that you have to resort to simply being offensive. Nothing said here is worth any comment by me other than the fact that it is simply adolescent.

    They posit a farming world of green pastures, cute cows and earnest farmers dutifully engaged, at every step, in protecting the health of those who consume their products. Well, if only it were so. A little model farm such as Schmidt’s is not representative. It’s a fantasy version of reality.
    You were very accurate in your statement here. This is exactly why we have to get away from the impersonal, faceless relationship between farmers and their consumers. MOST IMPORTANTLY we must get away from the current reality of farming so that we can avoid unaccountability of the quality of food produced. You’re exactly right – farmers should have a personal relationship with their consumers directly. That way the quality of their food produced will be obvious. In Mr. Schmidt’s case he has obviouslyl done an exceptional job in regards to producing healthy food, by the fact that he has so many supporters – many of which have consumed his milk for years and years on end – both young and old.
    Instead of having animals cooped up in small areas where they are deprived of sunlight fresh air, and healthy movement, we should be raising animals outside in green pastures. Your exactly right again when you say that cows are not cute when they are half covered in their own feces because they have to live on top of it. Here is a simple fact you may have not considered. Everyone has accepted the belief that when you don’t get enough sunlight you can become deficient in Vitamin D. Let me ask you a question: if an animal has little or no exposure to sunlight, will that animals body (which we consume) have very much vitamin D in it to offer us? Would an animal exposed to more sunlight than another have more vitamin D to offer you if you consume it? Of course.
    I would guess that there is more potential for having disease in a cow that lives in a pile of its own feces than that of a cow who is free range and walks in fresh green grass, breathes fresh air, and enjoys the sun.

    Schmidt himself says in the doc, “It is an issue of the freedom to farm and freedom of choice for every consumer in this province and country. Bureaucracy and government is governing us as if we cannot think.”
    What utter twaddle. The pasteurization of milk is about the prevention of milk-borne Mycobacterium bovis (that is, non-pulmonary tuberculosis), as well as typhoid and salmonella, that are commonly found to be present in raw milk. Pasteurization was a major landmark in the struggle to keep children and the elderly safe from a variety of disease. It made the world a better place. It’s not some cockamamie notion invented to stop the urban middle class from having a more piquant taste in their milk or cheese. La-di-da.

    You think that this is not about freedom? Let us take alcohol for example. Alcohol kills hundreds of thousands of people each year either directly or indirectly from alcohol poisoning, liver disease and drinking and driving. Not to mention the consequences associated with fights and abuse that are a result of excess drinking. Yet this liquid is legal. Even if it were true that in a rare case raw milk has made a person sick (which it is not true – hence all the support Schmidt has) it is far far less dangerous than alcohol. This alone makes the regulation over raw milk ridiculous.

    Did you know that doctors and scientists use to use blood letting to cure an illness? Nowadays we know that we were wrong about certain theories of the past. Could it be true that the current belief that raw milk is so dangerous is wrong?

    Alcohol is legal despite all the hard accepted facts about the dangers associated with it. Raw milk is illegal despite all the people demanding they have access to it. It is law right now that farmers can drink their own milk and they do all the time, and yet so many people are against consumption of raw milk. The farmers that are producing the milk drink it themselves – if raw milk was so dangerous to consume, then we’d have no pasteurized milk at all since all of the farmers providing raw milk for pasteurization would be sick or dead! Not to mention all of Europe and half the United States.

    Sure, there are, as the doc points out, places in the world where raw milk is produced and sold. In the European instances, the farms producing raw milk are very heavily regulated – usually at a high cost partly carried by the farm itself – and in the United States (as is also pointed out in the program) the allowing of raw milk has led to an increased level of children being infected by E. coli. Little wonder that some of the scientists and food regulation officials interviewed for the program roll their eyes in frustration.

    I have spoken directly to many people that have moved to Ontario from both the US and Europe who have been consuming raw milk from birth. Upon coming to Ontario the story is always similar “ As soon as I stopped drinking raw milk I didn’t feel as good, and noticed that I was getting sick more often”.
    With all due respect sir, the fact remains that there are entire nations that are consuming raw milk today and there are few, if any sick or dying from it. To my knowledge there are no cases of tuberculosis caused by raw milk in these nations – and if I have overlooked any occurrences, they are very few indeed – far less than the number of people that DIE say, from consuming a food that has gone bad because it sat on the truck or the shelf too long – another fact that can be almost entirely eliminated by direct farmer to consumer relationships.

    The vulnerability of children is a key issue. Sure, adults are entitled to choice – but allowed the choice of giving unpasteurized milk to children, who have no choice? Call me peculiar, but the safety of children has nothing to do with the “nanny state” interfering in some alleged gourmand’s taste for dangerous foods. One reason the nanny state exists is to protect the young, the elderly and the vulnerable.
    It is the responsibility of the parents to choose what is good or bad for their children. Parents are legally allowed to feed their children fast food which has been shown to cause heart disease and hyperactivity in children and adults. Fast food has also resulted in food poisoning and death in hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Parents have the right to feed their children fast food but not the right to feed them raw milk? Have you looked up statistics on how many people die each year from raw milk consumption in Europe or the US or the farmers of Canada who are legally allowed to drink it? From my personal research I can’t find any statistics on any deaths at all. Does this not raise an eyebrow and make you wonder if Mr. Schmidt may in fact be fully intelligent and justified in his actions? Does it not make you wonder if “big business” really does have something to do with the ban of raw milk? Another point to consider is that the few cases of sickness associated from drinking raw milk might be misleading. For example, was the raw milk that was consumed in these instances still fresh? Was it taken from a cow that was raised poorly or not well taken care of? Don’t’ forget about how many people get themselves sick from buying meat and leaving it in the fridge for 1-2 weeks before consuming it and then ending up with food poisoning. Could the extremely small amount of cases of illness from raw milk be related to any of this? Of course it could. Can you then say that noone should be allowed to consume raw milk – absolutely not! That’s like saying people shouldn’t be allowed to purchase meat that isn’t already cooked, because there is the possibility of food poisoning.

    Me, I grew up where the dairy industry was everything. I can still hear the clatter of milk churns being collected and taken away for pasteurization. Nobody thought it was unnecessary government regulation. We were all kinda glad that we were free of the diseases and infections that shortened the lives of our ancestors.
    This must be around the same time that the government fully supported and legalized smoking tobacco? Remember the times when everyone thought it was perfectly healthy to smoke a cigarette throughout the day? Remember how everyone was kinda glad that they could indulge in that great feeling offered from a cigarette? Look at the present number of lung cancer patients, asthma sufferers born to parents who smoked, and deaths related to cigarettes. I only point this out to show you that it is not always wise to believe that the government knows best. Remember that people can be paid off, and also that the knowledge about health is ever changing, and thus the government could simply be wrong sometimes – as they have been numerous times. The important point to realize here is that people should be able to make their own choice.
    Maybe when you were a kid some farmers had started using poor husbandry techniques that raised production but sacrificed cleanliness – thus leading to poor quality milk or milk that was infected. The government may have mistaken this for a problem with raw milk, when really the problem was the new techniques used to produce it. Maybe Schmidt knows how to produce healthy raw milk that has powerful benefits to its consumers?

    I hope some of what I have said has helped you realize that things aren’t always as they seem. Just because you read something or hear something all over the media doesn’t mean that it is true – you should know this writing for a large newspaper. For every study that “proves” this, another study “proves” that. Maybe instead of forcing the current (but ever-changing) accepted idea of what do to and what not to do, maybe we should, in some instances, make the decision up to the consumer themselves. If raw milk were made legal and people chose to drink it and then became sick – I don’t think it would take much convincing to get them to stop consuming it. If raw milk were made legal and it made them healthy, I don’t’ think it would be long before many more and eventually all peole began drinking raw milk. Maybe this is what “big business” might be trying to prevent from happening?
    And now consider the current situation – we have many many people who have consumed raw milk for years on end and wish to continue doing so because of the positive benefits they have received. How could anyone turn them down?

    I urge you John Doyle, to research this more fully, listen to the arguments the people that want raw milk have – read about the benefits raw milk has to offer. Maybe one day you’ll be able to drink raw milk yourself and you might enjoy a better quality of life.

    Of all the arguments I have presented here, consider my one last argument the best I have to offer – Both me and my wife drink raw milk and benefit from it greatly. So much so, that our goal is to move to a hobby farm in the future where we can drink it fresh every day, along with having access to fresh eggs, and fresh meat and vegetables. You can be sure Sir, that we will have green pastures.

  5. Paul Ericson

    I’m new to the area so I’m not familiar with Doyle’s work, but he is clearly much more interested in social commentary than facts.

    Most discussions of raw milk in the media fail to make clear three important points about raw milk. His article is no different.

    First, almost all discussions of raw milk assume that all raw milk is the same. Of course public health officials and scientists are correct that conventional raw milk should not be consumed. It’s produced to be pasteurized so few precautions are taken to keep it clean. But in most jurisdictions that allow raw milk, it has a completely separate supply chain and regulatory regime.

    Second, there are two ways to produce safe drinking milk: Either pasteurize it or make sure it is never contaminated in the first place! The end product is the same. In fact this dual track system existed side by side for decades across the US and Canada and still does in any jurisdiction that regulate raw milk, including Quebec which just restarted a dual track system for raw milk production.

    Third, the risk of regulated raw milk needs to be put into proper perspective. Of course raw milk makes people sick in jurisdictions where it’s allowed and regulated. But so do cold cuts and spinach! Cold cuts and raw fruits and vegetables are 20 to 30 times more dangerous than all dairy according to CDC statistics. So properly regulated raw milk is about as dangerous as a salad and no one is scared to give a salad to their kids.

    What’s going in this battle is fear mongering by health officials that are either outright lying or haven’t studied global raw milk policy and pressure from big dairy to protect their monopoly.

  6. Pingback: Readers set John Doyle straight on what’s what with raw milk « The Bovine

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