Readers write their politicians, part 14

Still more letters to Premier McGuinty, urging him simply to meet with Michael Schmidt. Keep sending us copies of your correspondence with your elected representatives, and we’ll keep printing them. Send to thebovine AT gmx DOT com. Thanks!


Liz Sandals

MPP, City of Guelph

Dear Ms. Sandals,

I am writing as a member of your constituency concerning the issue of raw milk, and the broader issue of food sovereignty in general.  You are probably aware of the case of organic dairy farmer Michael Schmidt and the hardship he has been going through in his efforts to supply educated consumers with responsibly and ethically produced raw milk.  Mr. Schmidt is currently on the 34th day of a hunger strike which he vows to maintain until Dalton McGuinty agrees to meet with him for an open and honest dialogue.  He has also stated that he is “willing to die if it’s necessary.”

Those involved in the raw milk movement do not contest that milk produced via the large-scale industrial model needs to be pasteurized, as there is no other way of ensuring cleanliness and the cattle themselves are over-stressed and often ill.  The model that Mr. Schmidt and others are advocating, however, prioritizes the health of the land and herd over production quantities. Hormones, herbicides and additives are not used, and its smaller scale allows for higher sanitary standards.  Raw milk produced in such a manner not only tastes far superior, but has significant health benefits, which are destroyed in the heating process.  It is the contention of Mr. Schmidt and others that producing milk under such conditions, with standardized, regular testing for pathogens, meets or exceeds existing health standards.  Indeed, many countries around the world, including the other G8 nations, have regulations which allow consumers access to raw milk.

I myself am a raw milk consumer.  I have a personal relationship with my farmer, have visited the land and animals on many occasions and have complete confidence in the ethicality and competence of their practices.  I believe having a close and transparent relationship with the producers of our food is the most effective way of ensuring food security.  There are many who think like me and our numbers are constantly increasing.  It would be encouraging to see government on all levels be supportive of such trends.  Seeing as the demand for raw milk is growing, the alternative to its decriminalization would be to support a thriving underground milk economy.  It is common wisdom that health and safety standards are impossible to regulate in underground markets.  In that case I would fear for the safety of uneducated consumers, who in their desperation might seek milk from unscrupulous and opportunistic farmers who do not follow the model exhibited by Michael Schmidt.

I am aware of the recent formation of a bipartisan group, started by MPPs Randy Hillier and Greg Sorbara, with the intent of pressuring Premier McGuinty into opening a dialog with Mr. Schmidt.  Michael’s requests are quite reasonable.  He is not asking for the immediate overturning of any laws, just a conversation.  I was wondering where you stand on the raw milk issue and if you would be joining this committee?

Thank you for your time,

Matthew Reeves


Dear Premier McGuinty:

I write again as the hunger strike by Michael Schmidt for raw milk begins its 34th day.

It seems that every time I read comments from your office regarding this situation they say the same thing: “It is still under consideration.”

I realize that as Premier, you are a very busy man with a tremendous workload.  I am sure that if you met with every person requesting an audience, your office would accomplish nothing.  I understand this completely.

However, this request proffered by Michael Schmidt is a bit different. Mr. Schmidt is far from one of your average constituents, simply because of his history in the Canadian justice system.

This man has been under government scrutiny for the better part of two decades.  His farm has been raided twice. His life’s been totally turned upside-down, he’s suffered financial loss, and his family has been traumatized. He’s been in court many times and after being tried and acquitted, suddenly he’s been found guilty of those same charges again!  Now he faces additional charges stemming from the appeal by Grey Bruce Health.  No, Mr. McGuinty, I’d say that Michael Schmidt is not just some nut requesting a meeting with you.

Michael Schmidt is just one man, expressing his desire for all Canadians to have the right to choose the food that they eat.

He does, however, represent many people both in Canada –  your constituents – and  millions here in the United States and around the world, who value freedom to make their own healthy food choices.  We cannot fathom why this basic right is being denied us.  It’s based on antiquated laws and statistics which occurred before modern sanitary practices and today’s state-of-the-art testing.

Mr. Schmidt has been patient and respectful in his requests for a meeting with you. He hasn’t flooded the press with slanderous or depreciating statements about your office. This kind of action would bring this standoff to a level in which you could write him off as a kook and ignore him!

No, he’s been respectful toward your position.  He wants a dialog to go over points which he feels are important to the raw milk issue.  The aim here is cooperate with your office, establishing guidelines to give people the education about this issue, a choice and insure safety for consumers.  He also wants to erase the potential for further criminal actions against farmers who want to have the option of offering their customers raw milk.

My question is this:

How much more consideration does there have to be?

Isn’t 34 days enough?

I respectfully ask you to end this stalemate with the same consideration which Michael Schmidt has afforded you: respect, a willingness to entertain different options, an open, constructive dialog benefitting all concerns with results which are acceptable to both parties.

Respectfully,

Beverly Hill

VA, USA


Honourable Dalton McGuinty

I am concerned by the centralization of our canadian, and ontarian, food production. With the closure of the last soft fruit packing plant, the aging farming population and ever intense ecosystem strain of intensive livestock operations I urge the government to think systemically about our food webs.

As we globally celebrate the 7 billionth human being born let us explore the idea of resiliency. Jane Jacobs, well respected urban planner and social critic, talks about planned redundancy as part of a resilient system. This means many smaller operations performing similar, if not the same, task for different populations. If one changes or fails, the system as a whole doesn’t suffer, functions simply shift.

The continued plight of small producers against your government is counter intuitive if we are working towards a system that works for people. I appreciate a response to these thoughts,

In the utmost urgency

Ben Laurie


Dear Premier McGuinty,

It is with concern that I have followed the machinations of our Ontario government regarding the cow share operation at Glen Colton Farms. I want a government that acts on my behalf for the betterment of all. I consider the ability to choose my food based on its sources to be a personal right, and I expect my government to trust me, and expect that I will make informed choices, as I do when I choose produce from my garden or the local farmers’ market, and meat from nearby sources who treat their animals with respect. I believe that the choice to consume fresh milk from well-treated cows falls into this category.

Please reconsider this current tack of prosecuting consenting individuals who are entering willingly into agreements between them. Let us instead allow a diversity of ideas to flourish. We may learn something.

Sincerely,

Georgie Donais

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