Readers write their politicians, part 12

Raw milk friends at Michael Schmidt's blue bus in Thornhill earlier this month.

This is now day 33 of Michael Schmidt’s hunger strike for responsible food freedom. He started his fast on the 29th of September. We’re calling that day one. We hear that many people ARE calling McGuinty’s office with their concerns about his apparent unwillingness to meet with Michael on what may before too long become a life and death issue. Let’s hope the newly formed committee of MPPs from all three parties will help to turn things around. Thanks to the many readers who continue to send copies of their letters to The Bovine. We’ll keep publishing them. So send them in to us at TheBovine AT gmx DOT com.


Esteemed elected officials of Ontario,

Greetings from a family-farm dairy in SE South Dakota (USA)! Please do not take this as another American attempt to meddle / dictate in Canadian affairs. We have the highest regard for the sovereignty of Canada and the province of Ontario and admire your government systems for their progressive nature on the whole.

We do feel compelled to appeal to you out of human solidarity with Michael Schmidt and others who are on an extended and deeply committed hunger strike to win the opportunity to dialogue in a meaningful way directly with the premier of Ontario on the issue of the freedom to choose one’s food and raw milk specifically. Their request is not a flippant one nor superfluous and meant to humiliate. It is fundamental to the condition of full citizens which we are sure you wholly defend.

As life-long raw milk drinkers and producers, we are appalled at the extreme actions and reactions undertaken by governments in Canada and the US toward well-informed and healthy citizens who insist on their rights to consumer healthy food. It is amply proven scientifically and statistically that responsibly-produced raw milk poses no extraordinary health risk and offers many nutritional advantages over processed milk. It is certainly far safer that many foods and beverages which are allowed or even promoted, even though their consumption is clearly linked to serious health problems; ie, alcoholic drinks, sliced deli meats, etc.

Regardless of your position on raw milk, please listen to the strong voices amoung your constituents demanding the freedom to consume the foods of their choosing. Remember who you are in office to serve and respond to. Please press Premier Dalton to meet with Michael Schmidt SOON. Please also debate this issue with your staff members and colleagues so that they can add to the pressure for action to avert the unthinkable; that respectful, honorable farmers should die because their elected officials refuse to listen to them face-to-face!

Bear in mind that this case has repercussions far beyond Ontario. You cannot imagine how many of us are anxiously watching it unfold. Later today I shall be publicizing it in our area newspapers.

Praying to God for your strength of spirit to do what is right,

Tim & Anita Eisenbeis

44373 280th St.

Marion, SD 57043

(605) 925-4661


30 October 2011

Open Letter to Dalton McGuinty

Premier of Ontario

Sir,

As a farmer in rural Ontario, I am deeply saddened and disappointed at how both you and your government have taken a cavalier and disengaged approach to important issues of the day. Of particular urgency is the need to at once, engage in meaningful dialogue with Michael Schmidt. Mr. Schmidt is a man of integrity who has been badgered by provincial officials for nearly 20 years.

After being cleared of all charges a year ago, it was your government sir, which went after him again with an appeal funded by tax dollars (your constituents had no say in that expenditure).  Following a disappointing result in the most recent court proceedings, Mr. Schmidt has peacefully protested through his hunger strike. For more than a month now, you have refused to even speak to him, though you claim to represent all Ontarians as our Premier.

For more than a month Mr. Schmidt has risked his life for freedom of choice for Ontarians seeking healthy food outside of the industrial agricultural commodity stream. Sir, your refusal to recognize Michael Schmidt’s noble quest for freedom, is a slap in the face to all Canadian men and women who have served in overseas wars believing they were fighting for freedom of our people, and human rights around the world.  Mr. McGuinty, please recognize that freedom of access to healthy food is a fundamental freedom of citizenship in this province.

Please pick up the phone and arrange to meet with Mr. Schmidt NOW. It would be a grave dishonour to your position to carry responsibility for Michael’s death through inaction and arrogance.

Sincerely,

John Drummond

Mitchell, Ontario


Hon. Dalton McGuinty, MPP

Premier of Ontario

Main Legislative Building, Rm. 281

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON

M7A 1A1

October 29, 2011

Dear Mr. McGuinty:

I am writing to you about Michael Schmidt. No doubt you are familiar with this name and what it stands for.

Mr. Schmidt is a man of principle, honest and hard working. He has found a way to supply many people with a product they value. In doing so he has been of real service.

That this service was an illegal one is unfortunate.

I am very concerned about the state of his health right now, as well as the circumstances that led him to make such a life threatening decision. Therefore I would very much appreciate a gesture of openness and consideration from you by creating the opportunity for a personal meeting between yourself and Michael Schmidt.

His recent reconviction was shocking.

Sincerely,

Heide Shrouder

Mississauga, ON


Cc: Hon. Deborah Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

Hon. Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculutre, Food and Rural Affairs

Dipika Damerla, MPP Mississauga East-Cooksville


Attn. Hazel Lynn

Medical Officer of Health

Grey Bruce Health Unit

101 17th Street East,

Owen Sound, ON

N4K 0A5

Sunday, October-30-11

Dear Dr. Lynn,

I would like to help you to become clear about the hunger strike, because I think you may have been given false information.

Michael Schmidt is on a hunger strike.  He will end his hunger strike, if  Dalton McGuinty will have a dialogue with him.  It’s that simple.  In an interview Michael clearly responded as follows:

… I want him (Dalton McGuinty) to know that I have no conditions, in my quest for dialogue, other than a wish to focus on the following questions with a view to progressing from where we are now to where we could ideally be as a robust society:

1. How can we move to ensure that farmers are no longer persecuted through being subjected to more and more raids on their properties, to more charges being laid against them?

2. Can we work towards the formation of a task force to look at current recommendations that address the stalemate that exists with regard to Raw Milk?

3. How can the individual right to food choice be upheld when the regulatory bodies revolve around the issue of risk and of ‘endangering the public’?

As a leader would you have a conversation with a person, when you know that conversation could save their life?  Only a conversation!
Would  it matter if you like/dislike or agree/disagree with that person?  Would you not talk to that person?
Is it rational leadership not to grant an interview? Is that compassion and understanding?
No it is not.
Dr. Lynn, would you not simply talk with someone, if that would end their hunger strike?  Would a doctor not do that?  Even if the doctor thought the individual was sane or not?  I certainly hope you would.  I would.

Regarding food safety issues, I would like to share some statistics with you that I think would be worth your while to understand. The following is an excerpt from a letter my husband wrote a couple of years ago and I have copied out a couple of times since:

Now that the whole issue of raw milk safety has been brought to the fore by the recent events, I have been confused by the claims made by various health officials and decided to do some research of my own into the issue.
 
What I’ve come up with is interesting. The Department of Health claims that Raw milk is unsafe, however the data available on the web from places like the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other publications including the USFDA and the American Journal for Public Health (which are also consistently opposed to the sale of raw milk) indicate, contrary to their stance, that raw milk is just as safe as any other food product and in fact safer than many. 
 
All the public statements that I have seen from our health officials, in the media and on the web, approach the issue by reciting various cases of illness that have been linked to the consumption of raw milk.  The cases mentioned are always serious and are clearly chosen to engender fear in support of their case.  What they invariably leave out is the “rest of the story” namely the relative incidence of illness attributed to other foods, including pasteurized milk. (Yes, there are lots of cases of people getting sick from pasteurized milk – and in most of those cases the pasteurization was verified to have been done properly! ).
 
Although there are certainly reported cases of illness where raw milk is the suspected cause, the numbers are very small compared to those attributed to other foods, including pasteurized milk. For instance in 2002 the FDA reported that there were 200 cases of people getting sick in the US attributed to raw milk. This is in an article stating the raw milk is not safe (because 200 people got sick!).  Well 200 doesn’t seem like a huge number given the total population of the US. Conveniently, they don’t say anything about the numbers of illnesses attributed to other foods, or due to pasteurized milk.
 
If you look at the CDC FoodNet report for 2002 they state that there were 16,389 reported cases of food related illness in the population that Foodnet monitors which is about 14% of the US population. That extrapolates to about 116,000 cases in the total US.  Which means that the percent of reported food related illnesses due to raw milk out of the total is a miniscule  0.17% !   (Another section in the same reports quotes an estimate made by the CDC that in 1997 if unreported cases were included, there were probably 325,000 cases of hospitalization due to foodborne illness and 76 million probable cases of milder illness !! )

…So although raw milk may cause some illness, it is certainly not the worst cause.  The data I have seen for the general US population shows that salads are the worst, then fruits, then chicken, with milk having the lowest incidence. (I wasn’t able to get data on beef)
 
Another thing that the FDA report leaves out is where the raw milk that caused the 200 illness came from. Did it come from certified and regulated producers or others? If you look at the performance of concientious individual raw milk producers, you will see some stellar results. Michael Schmidt for instance, has been providing raw milk for over 20 years and has not had one case of illness attributed to his milk. In California, the sale of raw milk is legal although it must be clearly labeled. A major raw milk dairy in California, Altena Dairies has been selling raw milk for 40 years with 0 cases of illness reported.  California has a highly regulated raw milk industry and the highest sales of raw milk of any US state. There have been a number of years in California when there were 0 cases of illness atributed to raw milk.  In the same years there were numerous cases attributed to pasteurized milk in California. 
 
The thing that struck me though as I went through this is that there appears to be a strong bias amongst health authorities against raw milk, even though their own statistics suggest that the bias is unfounded. What concerns me is that the health officials and government are not comparing apples to apples, and are presenting incomplete information to bolster their case.
 
Given the small numbers of illness due to raw milk, relative to the scale of other food (and water!!!) issues that are out there, it seems a total waste of government resources to be going after people like Michael Schmidt when there are far more important health problems to tackle.  I don’t have hard data on this, but based on news reports I’ve heard over the last year or so on water quality issues, I’m willing to bet that despite Walkerton and its aftermath there are still far more illnesses in Ontario due to poorly treated water than there are due to raw milk.
 
There are risks involved in every aspect of life.  Driving a car is far more risky than drinking raw milk, so is the consumption of alcohol. And what about tobacco? Smoking creates a huge strain on our health system, but it’s still legal.
 
From what I can see,  when a well regulated raw milk system is in place, the incidents of illness relative to the amount of raw milk consumed drops considerably.  Which is why it would make a lot of sense for Ontario to establish such a system. 

I don’t have much more to add to this, except I think that you need to get your facts in order.  I think you need to consider what is the right thing to do.  Please consider what you say in the future Dr. Lynn,  I think it would be important for someone in your position to get the facts  correct.  Are you not accountable by law, position of authority… or at least by ethics?

Take care.

Sincerely,

Shirley Ann Wood


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1 Comment

Filed under News

One response to “Readers write their politicians, part 12

  1. Sib

    Well said Shirley Ann. Let’s not allow the facts to get in the way of full-scale fear-mongering–that seems to be the philosophy of North American governments. However, raw milk is not inherently dangerous. Raw milk is safe when properly handled and regulated. It should not be illegal for any farmer to provide us with safe, raw milk from healthy animals. If it wasn’t safe, I would not drink it nor would I feed it to my child. People have been drinking raw milk for thousands of years, without regulators standing over their milk pails; we wouldn’t be here if our ancestors were dropping dead from drinking it. It’s natural, nutritious and safe. And governments have to stop spreading misinformation to the public. McGuinty has to speak with Michael Schmidt before it’s too late.

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