Ontario’s bully tactics rubbing milk farmer raw

The government's harassment of Michael Schmidt backfires as an increasing number of people turning to raw milk

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BELLEVILLE, ON Oct 14, 2015/ Troy Media/ – On Friday, October 2, 20 or so investigators from various Ontario government departments, accompanied by six armed police officers, raided Glencolton Farms, the co-operative farm in Grey Bruce County where raw milk advocate Michael Schmidt manages the dairy operation as well as raising chickens, pigs, grain and other farm products.

They arrived with a truck and a search warrant authorizing them to seize and remove numerous items for a raw milk investigation.

The news spread quickly on Facebook and Twitter. Soon, 50 co-op members were at the farm, shoulder-to-shoulder, barring the exit to the invaders. Eventually, a deal was negotiated: the cops and bureaucrats would leave with nothing more than a few computers that had already been removed (which they promised to return), and the co-op owners would stand aside.

This is the third such raid that Michael Schmidt has undergone. The others occurred in 1994 and 2006. Each time, Michael has been convicted of one or more regulatory offences relating to raw milk. Each time, he has been fined thousands of dollars. Each time, he has refused to pay, because he says paying would constitute an acknowledgment that he has done something wrong, and he hasn’t.

Each time, the story caught the attention of increasing numbers of Canadians who became curious about raw milk and wanted to acquire some. So each time, the province’s strong-arm tactics have backfired, increasing rather than reducing the number of raw milk drinkers in the province.

It is believed that humans domesticated the cow at least 10,000 years ago. Louis Pasteur did not invent pasteurization until 1864. So throughout most of history, humans everywhere drank their milk raw.

Today, Canada makes the pasteurization of milk mandatory, but many countries around the world do not. Roughly half of the U.S. states allow sales of raw milk. In at least six European countries, raw milk is legally sold in vending machines.

The Canadian government says that unpasteurized milk is dangerous and people shouldn’t drink it. But raw milk didn’t decimate the population thousands of years ago. The biblical “land of milk and honey” promised earthly delights, not deadly poison. Nor are people dying like flies in the modern states and countries that permit them to buy raw milk. And there has not been even a single report of illness relating to the raw milk that Michael Schmidt has produced over the past 27 years.

In a 2009 survey of Ontario dairy farmers, 88.7 per cent admitted that they or members of their families drank unpasteurized milk before shipping the rest off to the pasteurization plant. Michael says he wouldn’t personally want to drink the milk destined for the pasteurization stream, because it’s an entirely different (and inferior) product from milk that’s intended to be consumed raw. But even so, there has been no epidemic of death or disease among Ontario farm families.

The controversy over raw milk has led researchers in Europe to conduct wide-ranging scientific studies that would not be possible in Canada due to the illegality of the product. The GABRIELA study published in 2011 (more than a year after Schmidt’s last courtroom trial, so it couldn’t be considered by the court) involved 8,000 school-aged children. Those who had consumed raw milk had a roughly 50 per cent lower risk of asthma and allergies.

Since asthma kills approximately 250 Canadians every year, it is perfectly reasonable for adults afflicted with the disease to seek out raw milk as a preventative measure for their children.

Schmidt has consistently sought opportunities for the past 27 years to meet with provincial officials and negotiate a way to give Ontarians the option of consuming raw milk without breaking the law. The response has always been a cold shoulder. Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), the monopoly organization that controls milk quota within the province, opposes Michael at every step, furious that he dares to operate outside of their coercive clutches.

In 2011, Michael staged a hunger strike. He starved himself for 40 days, and lost 50 pounds, until he finally got a chance to speak to then premier Dalton McGuinty. McGuinty told him he’d have a chance to present his case to the 58-member Liberal caucus of the Ontario legislature. That promise was never fulfilled. Instead, Premier Kathrine Wynne’s administration continues to follow the failed policy of raiding and harassing Michael and the co-owners of the co-operative farm.

Karen Selick is the litigation director for the Canadian Constitution Foundation, which defended Michael Schmidt in the Ontario Court of Justice and Ontario Court of Appeal. 

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