David Gumpert deciphers a “subtext” in the saga of Michael Schmidt and other raw milk farmers in North America

From David E. Gumpert on The Complete Patient blog:

Michael Schmidt, accompanied by native friend and supporter Danny Beaton, makes his case to the media at last Tuesday's raw milk news conference at Queen's Park in Toronto.

“There’s one sentence in Michael Schmidt’s letter to Ontario’s Premier McGuinty, published as my previous post, that I can’t get out of my head.

“In return, my farm has been raided by armed officers, my family has been terrorized and I been dragged through the courts – first being acquitted and then being found guilty.”

The reason those words stay with me is that they don’t represent the slightest bit of exaggeration. If anything, they are understated. He doesn’t even mention any of the repercussions– that he’s lost large tracts of land, lots of money, and that his first marriage broke up in part because of the government’s assault. 

Many of us who support Schmidt have become so accustomed to his calm demeanor and decency in the face of the government outrages that we can easily overlook that he is also a farmer, a businessman, a scientist, a loyal and productive Canadian citizen–a guy trying to live his life.  Yet he’s been treated like a lowlife, a terrible criminal, someone not even worthy of a rational conversation with about such supposedly important issues as food safety. And based on the Ontario court’s reversal of his exoneration in 2010, he has many more years of such treatment to look forward to.

What’s even more startling is that he’s not alone. Other farmers in Canada have been treated this way, as have farmers and some of their associates across the United States. Indeed, the treatment has become progressively harsher and more troublesome, what with undercover investigations and felony charges.

The question people always ask me is, Why is this happening? There seems little doubt that major food corporations are pressuring the regulators. Many public health people also have a knee-jerk reaction based on their training that raw milk, in particular, is terribly dangerous.

But I would venture that something else is at work here, and it is something most of us would rather not think about: that the regulators get a certain amount of jollies from being given open season to prey on an unprotected subgroup of citizens. It’s something we’d rather not think about because the regulators are supposed to be like us, middle class and professional.

Among law enforcement and regulator types, we know that some react with distaste to pushing around hard-working farmers, as Wisconsin farmer Vernon Hershberger learned following three incursions at his farm in 2009. He’s been told that some in law enforcement said that raiding his farm represented a low point in their professional careers. But some not only don’t react with distaste, they actually relish the adrenaline rush that comes from lording it over a minority class they have come to despise.

In the case of Michael Schmidt, I make this judgment based on events. When he won his court case in early 2010, the Ontario government could have decided to accept the ruling. There was no public health issue, not even a hint of a public health problem over Schmidt’s raw milk. When a similar decision was issued by an Ohio judge in 2006, the state administration decided to simply accept it, and have allowed herdshares ever since.

But in Ontario, the authorities could not abide by the decision. Why? Maybe because they’d lose their plaything, their victim, the guy they’ve grown so fond of pushing around. Can anyone think of another reason?

That’s why Michael Schmidt’s request to meet with Premier Dalton McGuinty is significant. The government executives–governors, premiers, even the President of the U.S.–want to be kept isolated from the dirt of what’s going on. They may nod in approval when the regulators present their “science” to justify some action or another, but in practice, they’d rather assume the air of being above it all, of leaving regulation to the regulators, and all the distasteful stuff that comes with it. …”

Read it all on The Complete Patient blog.

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