“When talking to Michael Schmidt, you can sense the pride he carries when it comes to milk. The 54-year-old organic farmer is not scared of the repercussions of his raw milk trial – nor will he ever quit.
Last December, Schmidt was convicted of defying a court order by continuing to distribute raw, unpasteurized milk from his 30 cows. The result was $55,000 in fines which, according to his website, he doesn’t plan to pay. “No, I will not pay and I will not resist whatever befalls me,” said Schmidt.
Now, Schmidt must focus on 20 charges against him for the illegal sale of raw milk. Although the six-day raw milk trial wrapped up less than two months ago, Schmidt will have to wait to hear whether he, his cows and his 150 cow-share members will be permitted to continue their venture.
Both Schmidt and the prosecution have asked to see transcripts of the proceedings before they prepare final written submissions. Schmidt has until May 19 to file his final arguments, and the Crown has until June 16 to file its written reply.
He has also made a constitutional challenge against Canada’s mandatory pasteurization laws, arguing that the outright ban on selling raw milk violates his rights.
The Crown’s final witness, Dr. Jeffrey Wilson, an associate professor at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, testified that pathogens in raw milk can be transmitted to humans, which makes it a public health risk.
Schmidt suggested that informed consumers should be able to buy raw milk, just as they can buy raw meat.
“If they have to admit that raw milk is perfectly safe to drink, it is like egg in their face.” said Schmidt.
Health officials say raw milk carries the risk of contamination and spreading of salmonella, E. coli and Listeria monocytogens – none of which have ever been found on Schmidt’s farm.
Schmidt has always been looking for ways to ensure a safe product. It was in 1995 when the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) turned down his bid to research raw milk in order to create guidelines for safe distribution.
“I repeatedly approached them and proposed constructive guidelines and legislature. But they don’t want to go there. Because once they do and realize that raw milk is safe then the whole house of cards will come down,” he said.
DFO Spokesperson, Bill Mitchell, is well aware of Schmidt’s case and recalls Schmidt meeting with the Milk Marketing Board on at least one occasion. Mitchell said that Schmidt is breaking the law and putting public health at risk.
“And this is the problem with the freedom of choice argument: If you got a two-year-old that consumes raw milk and that kid goes to daycare, everyone in daycare can pick up the contamination. It wasn’t my right to choose if I get contaminated,” Mitchell said.
But Schmidt has other proof as to why raw milk is not hazardous and, in fact, advantageous to ones health.
“It is very difficult to produce dangerous raw milk. It has built an immune system through the lactic acid bacterias. When you pasteurize milk there are no antibodies left,” he said.
Schmidt believes there is an underlying issue when it comes to finding an honest and fair judgment over the raw milk dilemma.
“I think it is a question of control over a monopoly of milk. It is a political posturing. It has nothing to do with the safety of the product,” he said.
Mitchell also believes there is something fishy beneath the surface of Schmidt’s argument.
“A farm his size selling milk at his prices makes half a million dollars a year…It’s all about the money,” said Mitchell.
This ‘he said, she said’ duel likely won’t be put to bed when Schmidt’s final verdict is revealed. One thing that can be said of Schmidt’s fight is that he is not ready to quit, even if he is found guilty and jailed….”