Readers write their politicians, part 8

On how many policy issues do we have Americans writing to Canadian politicians? At least two of today’s collection of letters are from our neighbours south of the border who feel so strongly about these issues that they are writing to government people in Canada over our treatment of Michael Schmidt and raw milk. What’s next? Will we soon have Amnesty International on our case over food rights abuses? This is starting to go beyond simple justice to taint Ontario’s image abroad.

Self-described "milk wenches" at yesterday's Queen's Park rally. Photo by Charlotte VanGenechten


Dear Premier McGuinty,

I would like to add my support for Mr. Michael Schmidt in his effort to bring raw milk to the point where it is no longer criminalized.

I don’t live in Ontario, but I am proud to have been born in Hamilton and grew up in Ontario until I was nine.  Now I live in Washington state.  While visiting in Ontario three years ago in Durham, I learned of Mr. Schmidt, became fascinated with his case and have followed his story ever since.  He is a hero to me because of his courage and willingness to stand up for his principles.

Raw milk is legally sold here in Washington (it just has to have a statement on the label saying that it has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria), and I’ve had the privilege of exercising my choice to buy it for the last three years.  I haven’t once been sick – in fact I am healthier for it and hundreds of thousands of others would say the same thing.

I keep wondering to myself, how can something so legal in one place be so criminal in another?  How can it be that Mr. Schmidt has been raided, goods confiscated and dragged through the courts, for something that is freely and peacefully sold in another area?  One of the two laws must be “out of whack”.  If dozens of Washingtonians were getting sick and dying from it every year, I might say that we are the ones that should look at our laws.  But if that’s not happening (it’s not), the other area that raids farms should take a serious look at its laws.  Or is the reason for the law more about politics?

Please, take a serious look, and listen to the other side.

Sincerely,

Ramona Jack

Lynden, Washington


Date: Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 8:48 PM

Subject: Michael Schmidt’s Hunger Strike For Food Freedom

To: dmatthews.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org, mbest.mpp@liberal.ola.org, leona.aglukkaq@parl.gc.ca, gerry.ritz@parl.gc.ca

I am an American citizen so what I say, you Canadian lawmakers really don’t have to listen to, but I am also a human being… just like you.

I have already written to Premier McGuinty via his website asking for him to start a dialog with Michael Schmidt.

Two weeks ago I knew nothing of Michael Schmidt until I was asked to write a guest blog on another website about him.  At first I was ready to dismiss the request, but out of curiosity I started reading his story.

Michael Schmidt’s tale mirrors the plight of many of our U.S. farmers: they see the value and nutritional goodness of unpasteurized milk. They know that many of their fellow citizens realize that also, and, out of sheer physical necessity (allergies, intestinal distress etc) people want to drink this milk.  Michael’s milk program is private; his milk is not sold to the public.  It is only after customers have been educated about unpasteurized milk that they are allowed to join. This is a choice they make for their health!

This milk does not enter the national food supply.  It is produced under the most modern conditions and sanitary measures.  It is tested daily.  Unlike the conditions in the 1930’s which prompted the Milk Act, every precaution is taken to keep the quality of the milk safe.

The hypocrisy of modern food laws amazes me.  Bowing to pressures from the large agricultural entities (aka “Big Ag as we refer to it here in the U.S.) our governments have literally waged war on small farmers.  Perhaps it because the ‘establishment’ feels threatened and wants a piece of the pie; profits from these milk sales.  Or, maybe it is the loss of control of the government.

I don’t understand why governments feel the need to micro-manage us more and more – even down to what we eat.

Another thing I question:  Citizens have a choice in their every day lives.  They can go to a grocery and purchase raw meat, uncooked fish, raw vegetables and nobody bats an eye.  We can also buy alcohol and tobacco – both of which are very harmful to health.  We’re allowed to go to the pharmacy and purchase over-the-counter drugs, let’s say to treat allergies, cure a headache or asthma. In turn, these drugs can cause high blood pressure, liver or kidney disease or exacerbate an ulcer.  They can even interact with other prescription drugs we’re already taking.

However, if we want to drink unpasteurized milk, if we CHOOSE  to do this, we have to become criminals in the eyes of the government.

Why are MY food choices criminalized?

The farmer who supplies us with this milk becomes a criminal. He is dumped into a class of felons like drug dealers, gang members, extortionists, scam artists or burglars.  His farm  is raided by armed SWAT teams, his family traumatized, animals confiscated, products taken as ‘evidence’ and his livelihood destroyed.

This farmer didn’t shoot anybody, threaten, lie, cheat or steal.  He just did what he knew best:  milked cows in modern, sanitary conditions and gave them the same milk he drinks himself.

Can anybody tell me where is the common sense in this?  Why are overburdened governments, short and cash and manpower, so intent on setting up small farmers then prosecuting them.

Therefore I ask you, please consider what I and thousands of others have said.  I hope you find it in your hearts to confer with Premier Dalton McGuinty and have him at the very least, talk to Michael Schmidt.

Michael is not asking for the laws to be changed immediately – he only wants a dialog with Mr. McGuinty…, that’s all.  An acknowledgement, that’s all.

As governments tell their citizens:  this is your government.  Then if it truly is, the citizens should be allowed to have their say.

Please help Michael Schmidt.

Respectfully,

Beverly Hill

Crewe, VA 23030

U.S.A.


October 26, 2011

Reza Moridi, MPP

Dear Mr. Moridi,

I’m not sure how closely you have been following the saga of Michael Schmidt and raw milk as it has unfolded in your riding over the past 20-some years, but people in your riding, along with farmer Michael Schmidt have been leading the way in developing raw milk as a novel food choice, a low cost health care alternative, and yes, also as a niche market that could go a long way towards helping save the small family farm — good things all, in my book.

However, as with any new idea, there’s always a backlash from interest groups who feel their lunch is being eaten. In this case, I’m guessing it was likely the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (aka the Milk Marketing Board) who put up a big stink at the prospect of legal raw milk, when MPP Bill Murdoch tabled his private members bill to study raw milk, in the Fall of 2006 after the raid on Michael Schmidt’s farm.

I was there in the legislature when the bill was being debated and there was an obvious presence of the DFO, who clearly had no problems getting the government to talk to them. Rumor was that they promised their members’ support in the next election in exchange for the McGuinty government’s support in squelching this “dangerous” idea of raw milk.

Now, as the British model shows (information on which was circulated to all MPPs in early 2007), raw milk is not incompatible with supply management schemes such as Canada’s quota system.

And while much talk of health hazards is used against raw milk, the statistics show that dairy, even raw dairy, has among the fewest incidents of disease associated with it. Luncheon meats are much more of a risky proposition. 20 people died from Listeria after eating Maple Leaf meats a couple of years ago and the resulting regulatory consequence was nothing like what Michael Schmidt has experienced, for his victimless “crimes”.

Back in 1994 Michael lost most of his farm after what he calls “the first milk war”. And then in 2006 his farm was raided again. He finally had his day in court in 2009 and was acquitted of all charges in 2010. After that he promptly went about training other farmers in how to safely produce raw milk, which was all very public spirited of him.

And then, a month after that acquittal, the Ontario government decided to appeal the decision. And as you may have heard recently, the outcome was that Michael Schmidt has now been found guilty of 15 of those 19 charges. Of course his lawyer is seeking a further appeal.

But with the hunger strike he started 26 days ago, Michael is launching his own direct, man to man appeal to Premier McGuinty, to stop with the games, and meet with him directly, to begin working towards a solution to this seemingly endless back and forth chess game over raw milk.

And so Mr. Moridi, I’m asking you, as my representative at Queen’s Park, to talk to the Premier and encourage him to meet with Michael Schmidt and start a real, direct dialog about raw milk, which Toronto Life has been calling “the news story that just won’t go away”.

The worst case scenario would be that Michael Schmidt dies in the course of his hunger strike because Premier McGuinty insists on stonewalling him. Already this case has attracted wide interest across Canada and the United States, where Michael is seen as THE leading advocate for responsible food freedom for the whole continent. I think you’ll agree that we don’t want that black mark on Ontario’s reputation.

So I urge you to please do what you can to encourage Mr. McGuinty to open his mind to the possibility of recognizing people’s right to choose what foods they eat and drink and for the government to begin the dialog that needs to happen around raw milk.

Premier McGuinty’s solar energy policy followed the example of Germany. And it was welcomed as a good thing. Raw milk is legal all across Europe and it’s not a health issue over there. If they can do it there, why can’t we do it here?

Sincerely,

Richard Chomko, Richmond Hill


Oct. 26/ 11

Dear Mr Sorbara, MPP:

We would ask, “Government, please move over”.  The province needs to end needless interfering with our ethical choices to support Michael Schmidt’s organic farming livelihood –an approach in accordance with our food beliefs.

Michael Schmidt has repeatedly suffered terrorizing of his family and co-workers by raids of armed MNR, police, by seizures, fines, court dates.  Yet his cheesemaking room (visited by many), is on a par with the very cleanest of kitchens, and no one has fallen ill from his products.

It is a matter of record that you appreciated Michael’s organic dairying livelihood and tasted his products, at various times.

Please, could you convince Premier McGuinty that Michael’s raw milk products co-op ought to be permitted as a long-term pilot project, as a model for maintaining monitored high standards?

We also know that pathogens, feared by the authorities, are found predominantly on factory farms with feedlots, high concentrations of animals, and, not on balanced organic farms like Michael’s. So let’s not slam the door on co-op members who want organic raw milk, rich in enzymes, which they have found to be uniquely supportive of their health.

Cowshare co-operatives ought to be noticed as an important new ‘model’, leading the way to re-connect farmers and consumers, who have been previously kept isolated by commercial dairy networks.   No commercial promotional marketing aspect is needed for a co-op’s activity, since the farmer supplies only his co-op members. So there’s no “marketing dodge” here, as a Toronto Star editorial mistakenly presumed. And Michael’s cheeses taste like the best raw milk cheese imports, yet they aren’t costing extra for middlemen.

A pilot project, fully permitting Michael Schmidt’s innovative farming approach, ought to be part of a flexible Ontario ‘culture of renewal’ approach:  This is what Premier McGuinty and you could acknowledge would best foster and protect the tolerant and diverse ways of living, — which our country’s consumer- and producer-citizens do require in their pursuit of happiness and liberty.

Please stand with Michael Schmidt and encourage Premier McGuinty to do the same.

Sincerely,

Zeb Landon


To: dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 6:26 PM
Subject: Michael Schmidt´s hunger-strike

Dear Mr. McGuity,
I am a German citizen living in Germany. In April/may this year I travelled to Ontario and was delighted about the beauty of the country and the “common sense” which went along with most of the Canadian people. But recently I was surprised to find a Youtube-clip about Michael Schmidt´s hunger strike – if he is still alive it will be the 27th day of starvation. You probably know about this raw-milk farmer and his hard and long fight for the right to sell unpasteurized milk. He claims everybody should have the choice to eat or drink what he reckons to be good for him.

For many years I consumed tasty and healthy raw milk and even fresh cream which I obtained from a nearby farmer until the German laws made it nearly impossible for a “normal” farmer to produce and sell his untreated milk. It appeared to be a political issue for the benefit of the big milk-companies. Does it make sense if the food-industry is allowed to sell poisons like alcohol and tobacco-products and thousands of flavoured and tinted junk food-products, saturated with horrible preservatives while at the same time a honest farmer who tries to sell healthy natural products like raw milk will end up in jail? Does the law make sense that it is legaly allowed to drink unpasteurized milk, but it’s illegal to distribute it? It seems to me the Canadian law treats raw milk like marijuana: you may consume it, but you are not allowed to sell it to anybody.

Michael Schmidt´s struggle to sell his raw milk on a legal basis to customers is more than just a usual business-matter: Michael is fighting for a basic human right. His hunger-strike is thoughtfully observed in Germany and many people hope that Michael´s fight will not be in vain and will be stopped soon in reverence to human kind. His precious life should not be taken as a sacrifice for obtaining a basic human right: the responsiblity every individual has for what he/she eats and drinks! This does not necessarily lead to the creation of a National Food-Martyr and Hero.

I hope you will be able to solve this problem as a matter of Canadian common sense!
Yours sincerely

Michael Schubert


We don't all get our 15 minutes of fame on TV like this activist at yesterday's Queen's Park rally. But we CAN all write letters and emails to Dalton McGuinty and to our MPPs. Send a copy of your letter to The Bovine so we can post it to inspire others! Send it to thebovine AT gmx DOT com

2 Comments

Filed under News

2 responses to “Readers write their politicians, part 8

  1. Tenney

    Once upon a time, not so very long ago, everyone drank raw milk. Milk from the cow, perhaps filtered, perhaps skimmed, but not pasteurized. Once in a while someone became sick, perhaps from a sick cow or a dirty farmer. In today’s world of antibacterial soaps and rinses, hot water, stainless steel, concrete flooring, microbial filters and electric milkers, there is so little chance of infection that it makes the “wars on raw milk” seem like bringing an army to wipe out an anthill. I have personally milked a cow by hand for many years, with never an illness or infection attributable to raw milk or raw milk cheese. There is something bordering on insanity when a government sends armed troops to intimidate and ruin a farmer who is providing a clean wholesome product to people who CHOOSE to buy it! Milk is the first food of all mammals, including humans. Turning it into a contraband or illegal substance, putting it on a par with cocaine or heroin, is a waste of taxpayer money, government agency time and manpower, and court system calendar dates. Let’s get over it, go have a cup of tea, or a latte, with REAL milk!

  2. Pingback: Jane Siberry: Thank You for Caring About Us, Michael Schmidt | canadian blogs

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