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Free the Raw Milk

AM770 CHQR - The World Tonight
Posted 7/31/2008 9:00:00 PM

I'm not a drinker of raw milk (or "fresh milk" as enthusiasts call it), and am skeptical of the claims made by its defenders - or, at least, certainly skeptical of their skepticism of the health risks.

In any event, even if I go my entire life without coming anywhere near a glass of raw milk, I cannot for thelife of me understand why we are going to such an extent to punish those selling it, and to "protect" those who want to buy it.

Ontario farmer Michael Schmidt joined us on Thursday's program. You can download the interview at our podcast page or directly at this link (MP3)  

Schmidt has been ruthlessly persecued by the state (his farm was raided by armed police in November 2006) for daring to allow others to enjoy the same freedom he enjoys - to drink raw milk. As a farmer, Schmidt can legally drink raw milk, yet it's illegal to sell it to anyone else. Schmidt has tried to get around that by leasing a part of each of his cows to his customers, but the milk police have not relented.

                        Schmidt, however, scored a victory of sorts in court today:                       

Raw milk activist Michael Schmidt won a brief reprieve from his legal troubles yesterday, when a judge pushed his court date back six weeks and refused to enforce an earlier order that the farmer cease and desist.

“I think it’s a big victory,” Mr. Schmidt said outside court.

Mr. Schmidt was in Newmarket court to face contempt-of-court charges for allegedly breaching a court order requiring him to stop his unpasteurized milk operations. If found guilty, he faces possible jail time.

Mr. Schmidt has drawn official ire with his “cow-share” system, which allows clients to purchase a cow, pay for its upkeep and then collect raw milk and its products. He is accused of violating the Health Protection and Promotion Act by selling and distributing raw milk. That case is slated to go to trial in January, 2009.

The contempt charges stem from a court order last year requiring Mr. Schmidt to cease his raw milk operations.

Yesterday, Justice Michael Brown said that since “fundamental facts were in dispute,” the case would require more time, and he re-scheduled the case for Sept.10-12.  

Is this farmer such a menace that we need to lock him up? All charges against Mr. Schmidt should immediately be dropped, and he ought to be apologized to (and compensated for all the legal costs he's been forced to bear). It is shocking that so many resources have been mobilized against a milk farmer when we would seemingly have much more pressing concerns to attend to.


If people wish to drink raw milk, then that's their decision. End of story.  

It's not just in Canada where we see this overreaction from the authorities, either:  


On May 1, Pennsylvania state troopers arrived at the home of Mennonite farmer Mark Nolt, seizing a reported $20,000 to 25,000 worth of farm equipment and placing Nolt under arrest. His crime? The illegal sale of unpasteurized milk and other dairy products. And Nolt isn't alone. In February, federal investigators subpoenaed two employees of Mark McAfee's Organic Pastures Dairy in California. Though the subpoenas do not indicate the purpose of the investigation, McAfee told me the feds were seeking evidence that his dairy was selling unpasteurized milk for human consumption across state lines.

More here.

  Both the Toronto Star and the New York Times have examined some of the broader issues in the raw milk debate. Here's what Health Canada says:   

Health Canada would like to remind Canadians not to drink raw (unpasteurized) milk because it could contain bacteria that can make you seriously ill.

...While pasteurized milk is now the standard, there are some Canadians who continue to prefer raw milk because of perceived health benefits. However, any possible benefits are far outweighed by the serious risk of illness from drinking raw milk.

More on the health risks of raw milk here and here. For his part, Michael Schmidt seems perfectly healthy, and he says in 34 years none of his customers have ever had any health issues. People should be free to make their own decisions. 

Posted by: Rob Breakenridge