“DURHAM, ONT.—Lola and the girls ambled close to the barn Wednesday, a bit prematurely.
Their keeper, Michael Schmidt, has always vowed to fight until the cows come home for the right to get raw milk into his customers’ hands.
But it looks like his battle will take longer than he expected.
At his farm in Grey County, a few kilometres outside town, Schmidt got a call late Wednesday afternoon from his lawyer, informing him he’d been convicted of 15 provincial offences relating to the sale of unpasteurized milk and could potentially face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
“I can’t believe it,” he said. A peacock lounged on the roof of a shed and clothing hung on the line as Schmidt studied the 77-page decision.
The Ontario Court of Justice dismissed every one of his arguments that distributing and purchasing raw milk was a well-informed consumer’s constitutional right. He was acquitted Wednesday of three charges, but could be fined $5,000 for each day he continues to distribute his milk.
There will, he says, be an appeal. “The whole thing is a big loss, but we’re going to keep going.”
The province’s successful appeal of a Jan. 21 ruling in Schmidt’s favour was the latest chapter in the farmer’s four-year battle to keep milk flowing from his raw milk operation, which he described as a fight for “food freedom.”
Justice Peter Tetley’s decision, he predicted, “will stimulate incredible resistance” to government food controls, including the legislation he was found guilty of violating — Health Protection and Promotion Act provisions that prohibit distributing and selling milk that has not been heat-treated to kill bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli.
Raw milk advocates maintain pasteurization destroys beneficial enzymes, but authorities including the World Health Organization say the loss is minimal and the benefits of heat-treating outweigh the risks of drinking it raw.
“The bottom line is, he’s saying people don’t have the right to drink milk from their own cows,” Schmidt said….”