B.C. judge orders Alice Jongerden not to milk the cows — so now what?

Excerpts from the Vancouver Observer story by Manda Aufochs Gillespie:

A few of the roughly 50 supporters who turned out at the courthouse yesterday in Vancouver to show their support for raw milk, Alice Jongerden, and "Home on the Range". Photo via Vancouver Observer.

“Supporters and shareholders filled the courtroom in New Westminster, B.C. today to witness whether dairy farmer Alice Jongerden would be found in contempt of court for continuing to milk the cows owned by the Home on the Range milk cooperative.

The judge did not seem to take kindly to Ms. Jongerden having no legal counsel, to her attempts to submit evidence into the case, or to her request for cross-examination of the witness who had signed an affadavit against her. At one point he pointed directly at Ms. Jongerden and seemingly lost his temper, as he raised his voice and jabbed his finger in her direction.

Ms. Jongerden, on the other hand, seemed remarkably poised, further giving the situation a David versus Goliath feel….”

“…..After more back and forth and a ten minute recess where Ms. Jongerden asked the share members present what they wanted her to do: go for an adjournment or face the contempt of court charge today, she decided to seek an adjournment.

The lawyer representing the Fraser Health Authorities had made the one month adjournment conditional on Ms. Jongerden swearing to not produce or distribute any raw milk during that time. After listening to the conversations during the recess, the lawyer tried to change the terms to include anybody who had read the notice, but the judge would not do it. The shareholders frantically began to discuss who would milk their cows.

Courts can wait and fair hearings can be put on hold, but at 4 p.m today, and  tomorrow at 4 a.m., the cow’s udders will be full. Someone will have to milk them.”

Read the whole story on the Vancouver Observer.

Here’s an excerpt from a related story, by the same author, also from the Vancouver Observer:

What’s white, frothy, and illegal to sell in B.C.?

“Raw milk is illegal to sell in B.C., however 45 minutes south in Washington state it is sold legally. The Canada/U.S. border is being driven even further apart (at least in ideology) as the Lower Mainland’s largest raw milk cooperative is being brought to court, again.

This Tuesday, September 14, the Fraser Health Authority will attempt to have Alice Jongerden, the dairy farmer for Home on the Range cooperative, found in contempt of court for “distributing raw milk for human consumption” after Judge Gropper issued a cease and desist on March 18thof this year.

What is at stake is whether or not the Home on the Range cooperative of over 400 herd owners is allowed to continue to receive milk from the dairy cows they collectively own. As a group, they pay dues that supports dairy farmer Jongarden in caring for the herd.  A few times a week the farmers bring the milk into the city or herd owners go to the farm to pick-up their “dividends”: unpasteurized milk, butter, and yoghurt.  After the March order, all the dairy products are marked with a large: “NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION.”

“The owners… then use and enjoy their own property in whatever ways, they believe best,” says share member Gordon Watson on his website:http://bovinity.webs.com.

Watson has said that what is really at stake in this debate is a person’s right to make his own informed decision about what goes into his body. Canada is the only G8 country where raw milk is outlawed. And after a decision in early 2010 legalizing raw milk cooperatives in Ontario, British Columbia is coming out as one of the most stridently anti-raw milk places in the world.

Canada made raw milk illegal in 1991. In B.C. it is considered a health hazard under Section 7 of the Public Health Act Transitional Regulations. Why all the fuss? Health officials in Canada say that milk can contain potential pathogens, such as E. coli, and that pasteurization (heat treatment) makes the milk safer by destroying potential pathogens. They say that especially for people with compromised immune systems: the elderly, pregnant women, and children, drinking raw milk could cause severe illness.

Raw milk, or real-milk, enthusiasts say that Health Canada laws have it wrong. They say that raw milk, when raised on small, controlled dairies with healthy, free-ranging cows produce the healthiest milk there is. They point to studies suggesting that raw milk can ease lactose intolerance, provide important probiotics and their associated health benefits, and even provide protection against asthmaallergies, and eczema.

The raw milk fans point the finger right back at health officials and say that it is pasteurized milk that is more likely to become contaminated because it doesn’t have the good bacteria to help fight off any contaminating bad bacteria. As well, herds that supply pasteurized milk do not have to be inspected for disease. Processed milk is being linked to a host of other ailments from infertility linked to skim milk and heart disease from homogenized milk ingestion.

So, what is the truth you may wonder? Is raw milk a magic elixir or is it instant death in a glass bottle? Getting to the truth might never happen in North America. There is very little, if any, good research being done on this question on this side of the ocean. The most recent studies have all come from Europe and have largely found that raw milk is closer to magic elixir than deadly poison. However, neither the FDA nor Health Canada have shown any signs of conducting their own studies or of funding peer reviews. In a recent series on raw milk, CTV interviewed Mark McAfee, creator of the first international safety standards for raw milk. He claims that raw milk is unlikely to ever get studied in North America because there is a lack of a financial incentive here and because the health agencies do not assign a value to food for healing or medicinal purposes.

If raw milk has been illegal to sell in BC since 1991 how are there over 300 families getting raw milk as part of the Home on the Range cooperative? Rather than buying the milk, a person becomes an owner in the herd with a financial investment in the cows. This money goes toward buying, feeding, housing, and maintaining the herd and the milking operations and supporting a farmer to oversee the process. The Home on the Range cooperative hires Alice Jongerden.

Ms. Jongerden grew up on a dairy and as an adult wanted to get raw milk for herself and her family. Even in her rural, Chilliwack setting, she couldn’t find a good source for raw milk. So, she decided to get a cow. “When I had too much milk for our family, and not wanting to waste a drop, I started sharing the cow with a couple other families.” It wasn’t long before people were contacting her, clamoring for access to the cowshare. “We were not planning or anticipating more that 2 cows…it just happened that way.”

Cowshares are not unusual. They exist wherever laws prohibit the sale of raw milk—throughout much of Canada and in the U.S. states where it is illegal. The idea of the cowshare is to circumvent restrictive laws around the sale of raw milk. The owners are, instead, simply drinking (or bathing in or feeding to their animals) the dividends of their investment.

When I visited the farm where the Home on the Range herd lives I was struck by just how bucolic it all is: cows standing in pastures munching on grass, a big red milking barn that handles just four cows at a time, milk that is served in real glass jars. Just down the road the other reality can also be seen: another barn, this one with concrete flooring and cows kept all day in pens and milking is done en masse….”

Once again the link to the full story on the Vancouver Observer.

Further reading: CTV BC story about raw milk in Canada vs raw milk in the U.S.


Filed under News

14 responses to “B.C. judge orders Alice Jongerden not to milk the cows — so now what?

  1. Janeen

    Oh, that is SOOOO disgusting and ignorant! WHat kind of IDIOT of a Judge would say “quit milking your cows!”
    Don’t do it, Alice! I know Jail sounds intimidating but don’t quit!!

    How can I help, someone please tell me.
    Is it possible to get Karen Selick to represent Alice as well?
    Just tell me how and where I can give some money!

  2. Not to produce the milk? Cows need milking. Cows don’t care about court orders saying otherwise. It sounds like the court is deliberately telling her to do something that is illegal – cruelty to animals. I’m sure various animals rights groups and the law would have something to say about that.

  3. Why was Ms. Jongerden unrepresented? Are there no lawyers among the members? If not then it is probably a good idea for the members to pitch into a legal fund, and try to find a sympathetic attorney willing to take the case pro-bone or at a discount.

    The legal system is set up to respond to represented litigants much more than unrepresented ones. Self-representation tends to throw wrenches in its cogs, and I can’t imagine Judges liking that.

    • Standing on truth will make sometimes lawyers obsolete. However the system is so complicated that one mostly fails on procedural issues.
      I do believe in standing up for yourself as the most powerful tool

      • With respect, though I understand this sentiment, I do not think it is helpful. Legal structures are necessarily complex, because human interactions are complex – thus creating a need for people trained to think and express themselves in a precise manner. But lets not get into the value of law and lawyers.

        My point is – the Home on the Range farm is acting within the strict letter of the law, and (I believe) providing a benefit to its members, without causing social harm. This argument needs to be formulated in a cogent, concise manner that the judicial system is equipped to receive and understand. Self-representation, however morally satisfying, is not the best method to accomplish that goal. I think the right of British Colombians to choose raw foods is too important to be decided in an unevenly balanced procedural contest. They should get a lawyer.

    • Walter's Dad

      You are absolutely right Artem, there is no way she should have gone into this without a lawyer. Unfortunately, she chose to hang her hat on UNlearned legal advice.

      • Are there lawyers who are part of the co-op? Perhaps its time to get some community organization going.

      • Walter's Dad

        Out of 450 households, you’d think there would be at least one. Although I suppose members with a legal background could have looked at the case details and chose not to get involved – maybe they thought this particular case was not winnable. Who knows? It would be good to find out before starting any community organizing.

      • nedlud

        People’s lawyers are as rare as people’s politicians.

        They all work for corporations.

        The rules of fairness and justice (and common sense) don’t really apply anymore.

        I’ve been through this and I know. I’m a farmer with a legal issue. No lawyer will help me, I’ve approached dozens, probably over a hundred.

        Mostly now, I just pray and wait.

        I pray for the dead and soon-t0-be dead.

        And I wait.

        And I wait.

        God help us.

        Lawyers won’t.


  4. thebovine

    In the Michael Schmidt case, he started out with a top notch lawyer who seemed to be willing to take on the case for what was a fund-raise-able fee of $100,000. The impression we got as cowshare members was that that would pay for the whole case.

    Such was not to be. That $100,000 and more was quickly eaten up with preliminary work that took place even before any court appearances. It would have taken another $175,000 for the next few days of court work. So by the time the case was finished, the lawyer would likely have owned the entire farm operation or more.

    By comparison, the $250,000 that Percy Schmeiser paid in legal fees to battle Monsanto to the Supreme Court of Canada, seems like a bargain.

    So for Michael Schmidt, it was a choice of pleading guilty and being put out of business and having raw milk “outlawed” in Ontario by case law precedent, or facing “death” by lawyer fees OR taking on the task of learning the law and representing oneself.

    Fortunately Michael Schmidt had the opportunity to verse himself in what he needed to know of the law and the help of someone who could show him the way to do that, as well as the help of his co-farmers who could enable him to take the time for this kind of in-depth study. Not that any of that makes his victory in January 2010 over a team of government lawyers any less impressive

  5. Michael Schmidt

    If this becomes about the merits of lawyers I think we are on the wrong track. There are some basic questions about the reality how to pay for lawyers. If the state has unlimited resources to fund lawyers you will be broke before the case is even gone to trial. That,s why we get lured into “”plead guilty for a far lesser fine””. Even if you know you are not guilty you plead guilty because the cost of lawyers is already a punishment.
    If this case of food freedom would be a true cause of concern for some I agree a lawyer would offer the services for free. Sorry, I have not seen much of a lawyer yet who is as dedicated to the cause of justice as farmers are to the cause of food.
    This case has been going on for a long time. IF truly a lawyer would care and understand the severity of restricting food rights they would have been there.
    There is still time for any passionate lawyer who really cares to come forward and take on this case for the benefit of all.

  6. thebovine

    Of course, this discussion is not complete without mention of Karen Selick and the Canadian Constitution Foundation, who have undertaken to provide legal representation for Michael Schmidt in subsequent appeals, one of which may be in progress in the coming months.

    So that’s one counter example from the legal profession of taking on a case from a “public interest” perspective rather than for the money.

    Also in the United States, we should recognize the good work being done in many places by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, in taking on cases of small farmers or cowshare organizations who are fighting legal battles on behalf of people’s rights to food choice: http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/

  7. thebovine

    I just saw the following message posted on the Home on the Range website:

    To support Alice in her fight for food freedom and to contribute to the Legal Defence fund, all donations can be made to

    Raw Milk Legal Defence Fund
    Box 323 Rosedale BC
    V0X 1A0

    The legal defence fund is by managed by two Home on the Range Sharemembers. One of these sharemembers is a practicing lawyer.

  8. Michelle

    Keep up the fight, Alice!

    And say HI to LvToo, Helen (became a grandmother a few days ago!!), Alyssa, L’Oreal (she’s a grandmother again!), and everyone. We miss them and know you are taking great care of them!!! Wish we could be there to help you out.

    L’Oreal’s daughter is with us, milking great, and has an Avery heifer calf.

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