On Wednesday, November 2nd at 9 am there will be a rally for Food Freedom outside the New Westminster Supreme Court (651 Carnarvon Street) in support of dairy farmer Michael Schmidt who has been on a hunger strike for the past 33 days fighting contempt of court charges imposed upon him for distributing raw milk to members of his farm’s cow sharing program. He has already lost over 40 lbs in his protest, demanding to meet with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to discuss the issues, who to this point has refused to speak with him.
Here is the current state of affairs:
- 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.
- On September 28, 2011 Justice Tetley reversed the decision against the Province of Ontario and found Michael Schmidt guilty on 15 of the 19 charges.
- Michael Schmidt also faces another contempt of court charge here in BC for his role in aiding the former Home on the Range dairy farm cooperative in Chilliwack continue their cow-share operation, which carries a fine of up to $55,000. A court date is expected to be set and confirmed for early December 2011.
Why this is Important
The ability to choose what food we consume is a fundamental right.
Michael Schmidt has fought for decades to make safe raw milk available to informed consumers. He has offered many times to work co-operatively with government agencies to develop a raw milk certification program similar to those that exist in many European countries as well as many U.S. states.
But the Ontario government and its agencies, including the milk marketing board known as Dairy Farmers of Ontario, have rebuffed all attempts at co-operation. Instead, they have declared all-out war.
The government has unlimited resources—provided by you, the taxpayer — to continue prosecuting Michael through the courts. We don’t know yet how many levels of court they will drag him through before the case is finally resolved.
Hundreds of millions around the world have been drinking raw milk for thousands of years, yet today, it is illegal to sell it in Canada. However, raw milk is legal to sell in every other G8 country as they have a second set of dairy production standards of sufficiently high caliber to ensure the raw milk comes from healthy animals and is safe to consume.
Pasteurization was instituted in the 1900’s to combat various diseases caused by the unsanitary production of milk. How can the milk be safe to drink if the cows are sick, covered in manure, and fed anything but their natural diet of grass? Pasteurization is indeed necessary for unhealthy animals. But milk from healthy animals can be consumed in its natural state as it has been done for millenia.
Raw milk is legal in many places around the world. Canadians should have the same right to choose their food.
(Full disclosure: the author is a member of the Chilliwack cooperative and a supporter of Food Freedom)