(Image courtesy of The Bovine)
Ontario dairy farmer, Michael Schmidt, has been fighting for the rights of Canadians to drink raw milk since the early 1990’s. And during that time, his farm has been raided by health authorities along with RCMP officers on two separate occasions (in 1994 and again in 2006 where 25 armed officers stormed his farm).
In January 2010, after many years of legal wrangling, Michael Schmidt finally got his day in court where he represented himself (having lost the ability to pay the mounting legal fees over the years). After a dramatic proceeding, he was acquitted on all charges by Justice Kowarsky. The Province of Ontario subsequently decided to appeal the acquittal on the grounds that Justice Kowarsky committed procedure errors and showed bias with the evidence and on September 28, 2011 Justice Tetley reversed the decision and found Michael Schmidt guilty on 15 of the 19 charges.
In addition, Fraser Health in British Columbia decided to pile on with more legal assault by filing to find Michael Schmidt along with Gordon Watson in contempt of court and impose a $55,000 fine for their role in helping Our Cows (formerly Home on the Range) in Chilliwack to continue with its cow share program, even after public statements saying they wouldn’t take any action against the farm while a constitutional challenge was being pursued by the owner, Alice Jongerden. The contempt of court case is to be heard November 2nd, 2011.
On September 29, in the face of continued persecution by the Provincial governments for his “crime” of believing that informed consumers should be able to choose what they eat and drink, Michael Schmidt started the Hunger Strike for Responsible Food Freedom.
Michael Schmidt has stopped consuming any food and now only drinks water. Currently eight other people have joined Michael on his hunger strike. In his own words:
“I respectfully ask that the Ontario and BC governments agree to a constructive dialogue on how we can provide a framework to enable people to make real choices about their food and what they eat, beginning with raw milk and the implementation of a framework that grants legal standing for cow share operations in Ontario and BC. This objective also includes the end of the current prosecutions of cow shares which meet proper production standards.”
If Alice Jongerden finally gets the raw milk issue to the Supreme Court of Canada as a constitutional challenge, milk may finally get its due, a proper hearing where all the information can finally be presented, but until then, the battle over food rights continues.