Witnesses for Prosecution, Defense Testified to Two Very Different Milks
by Ted Beals, M.D.
In the United States we are busily pursuing various legal, legislative, and administrative actions to make access to raw milk more available and minimize the interference from state authorities. In Canada there is a flat prohibition across all Provinces.
Michael Schmidt has been patiently and persistently pushing his government to acknowledge the fundamental right of families to select the type and source of their food. He is not the only crusader, but he certainly is the most visible. Among his various battles is an action to force the constitutional issue of the legislative prohibition on the sale and distribution of milk in its fresh and unprocessed form. Michael asked me to assist in this action by serving as one of the two expert witnesses he was allowed to bring to the court in Newmarket, Ontario.
There was an agreement to have a total of four experts appear before the court, two in defense of the Crown, and two supporting Michael’s challenge to their Charter. Dr. Ron Hull, from Australia was the other expert assisting Michael.
Working with Dr. Hull and Michael was exciting, challenging and extremely rewarding. Michael comes to this legal challenge with a lifetime of experiences that enable him to frame the questions he wanted before the court. We had already proven to the court that he was more than just an independent maverick who was insisting on acting without representation by a formally recognized attorney. He was keenly aware of the issues, unrelenting in his demand for detail, and was becoming remarkably versed in the court proceedings and etiquette. The opposing attorneys (there was a row of them in the court) learned to respect Michael’s preparation and presence before the judge.
Much has been written about Michael, his causes and this particular court case. His cause is as well publicized as any recent action against the Canadian government. During the trial his large cadre of loyal and effective supporters insured that there were constant press releases, newspaper articles and television coverage (both local and national). I am taking this opportunity to add my own perspective. I was able first handed to see the powerful effect of Michael’s physical presence conducting the questioning, rebutting the attempts by the Ontario Attorney General’s representative to refute Dr. Hull and my sworn testimony and keeping the judge focused on the real issues.
Justice Kowarsky was not a passive judge. He actively participated in the proceedings, often with direct dialogue with the expert witnesses. He correctly surmised that he was facing a difficult role trying to determine which panel of scientific experts was convincing. Both panels were citing published scientific facts (often even the same publications) but reaching diametrically opposite conclusions. The answer was that the two sets of experts were talking about different products. As I framed it, they were citing results from raw milk that was more correctly called pre-pasteurized milk. We were testifying about farm fresh milk intended for immediate consumption in its natural, unprocessed form. He appeared to accept this and was dumfounded when questioning the government’s experts to find out that they had never performed testing for pathogens on milk from dairies that intended their milk to be consumed fresh. Even more surprised to find that they had not tested Michael Schmidt’s milk. The judge was convinced that there were large numbers of families that wanted the milk that Michael was providing. So he sees this as an issue that needs resolution. I suspect that he is feeling uncomfortable about having the responsibility for that resolution. But it appears that he was selected for this case on the basis of past experience with difficult, high-profile cases.
From my perspective the question before the court is rather simple: should the general public be prevented by law from having access to fresh clean unprocessed whole milk? Milk in the form that has been consumed by civilizations for longer than recorded history. Michael’s presentation, and I believe the written and oral testimony of his two witnesses, made a solid and thorough argument before the judge. The Crown’s defense boils down to the legal argument that for the court to overturn the vote of the legislature you must prove that they acted irrationally. And when the facts are complex involving different positions held by reasonable legislators, the courts should not second guess their vote.
However this judge rules, it is possible to appeal his decision. In the process there has been a lot of public education resulting from the media attention. The public heard arguments from all sides. I can not think of a more appropriate citizen to have brought this case before the Canadian government. This is not the first nor will it be the last time that Michael Schmidt stands tall and speaks with a clear, reasoned voice.
Ted Beals, M.D., is a Pathologist, Health educator and administrator. He is the Retired National Director of Pathology & Laboratory Services, Dept. of Veterans Affairs. He is also a researcher and faculty member of the University of Michigan. A lifelong advocate for organic principles and nutrient dense foods, Ted has recently written on bovine TB and milk. Ted is active in promoting the rights of farmers to provide and consumers to obtain milk and other local farm products. He lives with his wife Peggy on 40 acres in rural Michigan.