This story, by Jessica Leeder, was published in the Globe just before the January 21st not-guilty verdict was handed down in Newmarket court. Now that that verdict is being appealed by the Crown, the points made in this article take on a new relevance. Excerpts:
“Chewing a hay lunch, Svetlana, Viola and Leah display a bored calm in their wide, brown eyes. Their glazed looks belie the burgeoning legal war over the product of their udders.
These unassuming dairy cattle have become symbols of a growing international food rights movement fuelled by mistrust of the industrial food system….”
“….The Schmidt case, which began when his farm was raided in 2006, has captivated food rights academics and advocates in Canada and around the world who argue the court’s decision will ripple well beyond the raw milk community. At its crux, they argue, the case is really about the extent to which consumers should be free to buy foods, however rarefied, and whether constitutional rights stretch as far as the grocery basket, farmer’s market and the people who own shares in – but do not live on – food producing farms.
“This is not just about raw milk, this is about people’s rights to choose whatever foods they want. I advocate for choice,” said Joseph Heckman, an organic farming expert at Rutger’s University in New Jersey who has consumed raw milk since childhood and now studies it.
Farm families have for decades consumed the fruits – and liquids – of their labour, including livestock butchered on the farm and milk straight from the cow. But demand for raw milk off the farm has grown significantly in recent years with concerns over processed and mass-produced foods….”
“….”This isn’t a fad,” Mr. Schmidt said in an interview at his farm this week. He believes that if regulators continue to prosecute raw milk farmers rather than allow regulated sales of raw milk, the health risks will intensify.
“They’re pushing it underground. It’s a black market out there,” he said, adding that he is concerned irresponsible farmers will “feed on the raw milk frenzy” and sell products without the proper production safeguards.
Mr. Schimdt, who expects his case will escalate into a constitutional challenge, is adamant that he is not calling for an end to pasteurization. In an ideal world, he said, regulators would work with him and the dozen or so other raw milk farmers in Ontario to establish “common sense guidelines” to make raw milk production safer.
In 10 U.S. states, licensed farmers can sell raw milk with a warning label at grocery stores. Other parts of the country have cow-share or farm-share programs.
Prof. Heckman is advocating for more widespread compromise.
“When it’s really high quality raw milk, meaning it’s tested, the animals are healthy and it’s produced under good sanitation, the incidence of sickness is pretty rare,” he said. “It not zero. But there’s no food that’s perfectly safe.””
And now a sampling from the 135 comments that follow the story:
M. Braithewaite: “All this talk of legalizing marijuana and I can’t get a decent, flavourful glass of milk in Canada. It’s all pooled industrial-processed milk. I’ve given up trying to find a good glass of single farm milk and drink unhomogenized single-farm, organic, unsweetened, full-fat yoghurt instead. Not ideal, but a least it has flavour. Indeed, the flavour varies quite significantly depending on the bacterial profile and fermentaton techniques, as well as the terroire of the herd’s pasture and the time of year. More grass and less reliance n grains adds flavour and increases the content of beneficial fatty acids, such as DHA omega 3 and conjugated linoleic acid. Those interest in raw milk tend to be people who care deeply about the flavour and nutritional quality of their food.”
BlaqueJacqueShallaque: “Every day, and in every way, we have to fight back the tendency of the government to want to regulate every aspect of our lives.
I don’t know all the details on this issue, but my default position on anything like this is “keep the damn government out of it unless there is very strong reason they have to get involved.”
Canadians need to see that government is their slave and servant, not the other way around.”
MickeyHickey: “The problem is industrial large scale farming whereby big business can shave a couple percentage points off production costs while producing contaminated milk. Of course the label would contain the requisite weasel clauses. Unpasteurised milk is safe only if it is produced by small scale, responsible farmers. Each cow is known by the farmer and his family and they are examing the udder at every milking and can tell if the cow is under the weather at a glance. The milk is filtered and the filters are examined for any unusual substance. Cleanliness is an obsession, and freshness is a must and no milk over 24 hours old is sold for human consumption. I grew up on a farm where we sold milk “across the counter”, we all drank the same milk and had as much or more concern for our customers as we had for ourselves.
We never had an incident of illness reported. I would not support uncontrolled sale of unpasteurised milk except for small scale farmers who know their customers and are subject to inspection and rules surounding disease prevention (vaccinations of animals and people), hygiene and so on. It should be possible to take this out of the courts and get away from CYA behaviour by Queen’s Park and regional public health agencies.”
Rev1817: “I’ll drink and eat what I want thank you big brother. As Henry Kissinger said “If we can control fuel we can control the masses, if we can control food we can control individuals” WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!”