Raw milk issue not going away in B.C.

The Bovine’s west coast correspondent Gordon Watson reports:

Home on the Range cowshare member is very attached to her cow!

Below is another item in today’s “The Province” newspaper. Thanks to people like reporter Brian Lewis, and the Globe and Mail, and Global TV, we are winning in the court of public opinion.

If we can just  keep the REAL MILK flowing to get past this latest spot of inconvenience … caused by bureaucrats with their noses too close to the grindstone … we will prevail overall.

January 21 is the day when the court in Ontario hands down its decision in the case of “Regina versus Michael Schmidt” on charges of selling raw milk.  Michael called me the other day to encourage us.  The good thing there is that he hasn’t missed a day of delivering REAL MILK, over the last 3 years since the SWAT team (!) descended on his farm. Thus, the status quo ought to prevail as he appeals…. meaning; the balance of convenience favours his shareholders continuing to get their milk, there. And the same thing ought to happen here.”

Now here’s that story from “The Province”:

Politicians should regulate product for those who want to consume it

By Brian Lewis, The Province, January 3, 2010

As far as Alice Jongerden and those households that co-own her Home On The Range dairy are concerned, there’s nothing illegal about the raw-milk production and distribution that takes place daily on the small Chilliwack farm.

Shareholders joined the micro, cooperative dairy by choice — and with their eyes wide open, Jongerden says as she washes down the 20 Jersey dairy cows in preparation for a second daily milking.

The 365 share-holding members believe that raw, unpasteurized milk consumption offers superior health benefits that far outweigh any potential health risks that could arise from an unsanitary production environment.

Reader response to that point of view was surprisingly strong after I recently wrote about the Fraser Health Authority threatening legal action to close down this micro-dairy under B.C. Public Health Act provisions.

An overwhelming majority supported Jongerden, and some provided insight on how this issue is also growing in the U.S., where more than 30 states have now legalized raw-milk sales.

Not surprisingly, the right to market raw milk has reached U.S. courts, just as it has in Canada, and in both countries, a primary raw-milk opponent has been the established pasteurized dairy industry.

The single response I received that supported Fraser Health came from the B.C. Dairy Foundation. It said that like most uncooked, unpasteurized foods, raw milk can be a vehicle for nasty bugs and bacteria.

Fair enough, but any food improperly handled can pose a health risk and, lest we forget, this not-for-profit milk-advocacy group is funded by B.C.’s mainstream milk producers, who through Canada’s marketing-board system enjoy total monopoly, quota and price control over consumers.

Raw-milk advocates say pasteurization, which was introduced years ago when dairies were not as sanitary, also destroys many of the good things in natural milk along with the bad bugs. And yes, both sides on this issue make strong supporting arguments.

However, many raw-milk advocates find that this latest response by Fraser Health “et al” reminds them of U.S. alcohol prohibition in the late 1920s, when axe-wielding federal agents smashed cases of bathtub gin. As history showed, that prohibition failed.

Ironically, in a similar fashion, local health authority officials reportedly dumped shareholder-owned bottles of Home On The Range raw milk down the drain when they recently closed several of the dairy’s Lower Mainland distribution depots.

“I know B.C.’s dairy industry is big business and that some in the Fraser Valley consider us a huge threat,” Jongerden says. But this baffles her.

“Raw milk isn’t for everyone,” Jongerden explains. “Its sales have been legal in California for 10 years now, but still only two per cent of consumers drink it.”

Ultimately, I feel this issue is about market control versus the consumer’s right to choose as much as it’s about health. If raw milk is such a health hazard, what about sushi or raw oysters?

And why can’t our governments certify and regulate raw milk as provided for under the Milk Industry Act until 1996? This would also promote small, family dairy operations.

Obviously, if the politicians had stronger backbones (drink more milk, boys and girls) it may yet happen, because, as Jongerden warns: “This issue isn’t going away.”

Yes, Virginia, sometimes Big Brother is really s-l-o-w.

blewis@theprovince.com”

The story on The Province website is followed by this comment from “California girl”:

“Raw milk has been legal in California since 1900. It was never illegal. Raw milk was sold side by side of pasteurized until the late 1940’s. It wasn’t until recently that there was a change, and the drive was on to ban raw milk sales. The Alta Dena Dairy was finally driven out of business and the remain 2 dairies are determined to stay in business.

As an adopted native, I never thought it was an issue. I could have fresh raw milk delivered to my door since 1969 when I moved here from Detroit.

Raw milk will win in the end because of consumer demand.

People paying $6 to $12 a gallon will be the deciding factor.

And it could bring back the family dairy farm from extinction.”

Go to The Province site and add your own comments to the story!

Photo from Home on the Range website.

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