Copyright – 2011 Bev Hill, Environmental Food Activist, www.goodfood4all.com
Canadian dairy farmer Michael Schmidt continues to fight for food freedom with his hunger strike.
Canadian dairy farmer Michael Schmidt is now on day 13 of a hunger strike for, as he puts it, Responsible Food Freedom, fighting for direct farm to consumer sale of raw milk in Canada.
In 1994 Mr. Schmidt’s Durham, Ontario organic dairy farm, Glencolton Farms, was raided by Canadian authorities. Released on probation, he was instructed to cease distribution of raw milk for 2 years.
November 2006 saw the return of 25 armed officers to Glencolton Farms, this time taking milk, cheese making equipment, business records and a computer. Earlier that year through his cow-share program, he sold cheese made from unpasteurized milk “which was not made in a state regulated and inspected milk processing plant,” to an undercover cow share member Susan Atherton, in reality a Ministry of Natural Resources Agent. She used a false name, Susan Taylor, and eventually became a cow-share member to purchase raw milk. Ms. Alerton took her first purchase of cheese to a lab where tests confirmed that it was indeed made from unpasteurized milk.
Unbeknownst to him, Mr. Schmidt had been set up by the MNR and targeted because of his raw milk sales.
Fast forward to 2010, where Judge Paul Kowarsky subsequently overturned the ruling on Michael Schmidt. Stating that he agreed that Mr. Schmidt had done all he could to work within the confines of the law: From the transcript of the ruling from the Citation R. vs Schmidt, 210ONCJ9
”181. While all of the products grown and produced by the defendant are available for sale to every member of the public who is prepared to pay the price, the milk and milk products are reserved for sale and distribution only to specific members of the public, namely those who are knowledgeable (not vulnerable), paid-up and properly informed members of the cow share program especially created by the defendant so as to make these products available for certain members of the public who wish to obtain them. By so doing, the defendant maintains that he has done everything reasonably possible to achieve that purpose while remaining within the confines and the spirit of the legislation. I agree.”
More recently a lower court judge, P.D. Tetley, overturned the ruling of Judge Kowarski based on an appeal by the Ontario Government and Grey Bruce Health Unit, an area hospital.
To use the words of Michael Schmidt, “This is just a temporary setback. We will continue to fight, both through the courts and the legislature, for the rights of individuals to decide what they put into their bodies.”
After all, isn’t this what it’s all about in the food movement? Why are governments so insistent on telling consumers what they should and shouldn’t eat? People have been drinking raw milk for centuries and trading with farmers and why now has this become so dangerous? Mr. Schmidt recognizes the value of unadulterated food, rich in the natural elements required to enable people to live healthier lives. Raw milk is one of them.
Threatened are the big corporate interests: huge industrialized dairy farms and an industry which promotes confined milking systems of thousands of cows. In this system there is no humanity for the animals; they are viewed as numbers.
Endangered, too, is the government’s hold on its so-called “protection” of consumers. At the turn of the last century before modern sanitary measures, there was more need for regulation to actually protect people from rampant spread of disease from contaminated foodstuffs. Now, however, routine testing for pathogens in a modern farm setting makes this stringent oversight and ironclad fist of government rule unnecessary.
Corporate interests who line the pockets of politicians both here in the U.S. and around the world are silent backers against the likes of Mr. Schmidt. He, and all others who proclaim ‘”food freedom” is a threat to them.
Grey Bruce Health, part of the medical establishment in Canada came out against Mr. Schmidt in the recent ruling reversal. Mainstream medicine, as well as “Big Pharma” in all countries, is against any intrusion of natural healing initiatives. Here is another example of corporate powers assuming the general public has no brains and cannot make informed decisions based on information they receive.
In light of all the food raids: Rawsome Foods in California being the most highly publicized in recent weeks, the case of Mr. Schmidt, points out that he was doing what he could to stay within the law. He wasn’t lurking in the shadows of the night proffering his raw milk products, hiding them beneath a trench coat! He was out in the open in broad daylight, educating people about raw milk and providing his customers with information. If they so desired they could purchase his products after making an informed decision. In the end, it was their choice whether or not to buy.
This is how it should be.
What’s next? Armed federal agents and SWAT teams swooping down on farmer’s markets arresting vendors and customers alike? Don’t laugh: it probably isn’t too far down the line!
Mr. Schmidt’s hunger strike underlines the need for all consumers to get involved with their food. Voting with your fork & shopping at farmer’s markets is a good and still needed action, but by and large, it’s too easy, complacent, uninvolved, it’s nice…, and it’s safe. A weekly purchase of organic carrots at your local farmstand does nothing to show the powers that be that you want a choice where your food comes in! What’s needed now are more voices raised in support of farmers like Mr. Schmidt and hands reaching out to do what’s needed: get down and dirty in the trenches!
Mr. Schmidt and other small farmers like him have been made examples of by our respective governments and food systems. Enough is ENOUGH!
This is not governmental protection! It is harassment, pure & simple; taxpayer funded, government sponsored terrorism against its small farmers!
I urge everyone who cares about their food freedoms – help Michael Schmidt & his brethren by getting involved now! Speak up for your food rights! Contact your lawmakers; voice your objections about persecution of the small farmers like Michael Schmidt! Write letters, join organizations, stand up for your rights to buy your food where you want to! Insist that direct farm-to-consumer sales have no government interference. Your complacency needs to end, for the Michael Schmidts and all our small farmers who have been raided and traumatized at gunpoint by the government.
In the words of Frank Serpico, retired NYC detective: “Sometimes you have to go up against the odds to do the right thing.”
The current protest movement here in the U.S. of “Occupy Wall Street,” maybe it’s time that we have an “Occupy Big Food.”
Let’s all go against the odds…… because SILENCE IS ACCEPTANCE!
Michael Schmidt has clearly gone up against the odds many times and had been anything but silent! Thank you, Mr. Schmidt, for being on the front lines in our battle for food freedom!
Bev Hill, from a very early age, has always been a lover of the Earth. A self proclaimed “environmental food activist”, her mission is to educate people about what’s in the food they eat, how it affects their health and to actively promote the local food initiative & all small farmers. Visit her blog, goodfood4all.com.
How you Can Help!
Join our Letters to Michael campaign! Send your letter or guest blog to kim dot hartke at gmail.com. Selected letters will be published on this blog, and sent to Canadian newspaper editors. All letters will be sent to Michael to encourage him through this dark hour.