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Canadian cops push milk-drinking farmer over the line

This just in via the Slow Food activist network:

> URGENT JOIN US TODAY FOR PRESS CONFERENCE
> DOWNTOWN TORONTO
> AT JAMIE KENNEDY’S WINE BAR AND RESTAURANT
> AT CHURCH AND FRONT STREET
> BE THERE FOR 9:00 AM THE PRESS CONFERENCE STARTS AT 10:00 AM
> WE NEED ALL THE SUPPORT THAT WE CAN GET TODAY
> THE PRESS WILL WANT TO SEE HOW MANY ARE SUPPORTING THE CAUSE!!!!!
>
> SEE YOU THERE
>
> <http://www.canada.com/globaltv/ontario/index.html>
>
> if you go to this link you will be able to watch a video they did
> Tuesday for global news. It is below under “milk battle.”
>
> Judith
>
> Ontario farmer, raided for selling raw milk Pledges to stay on hunger strike

Colin Perkel
The Canadian Press

 
 

TORONTO — An Ontario farmer who ran afoul of decades-old legislation forbidding the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk is pledging to persist in his week-old hunger strike until authorities return his confiscated equipment and promise to leave him alone.

The armed raid on Michael Schmidt’s farm last week has turned him into a cause celebre for those who favour natural foods, and a lightning rod for the anger of farmers who say they’re fed up with heavy-handed bureaucracy.

“This is a battle out of principle. This is a battle that people gain respect again for the farmer,” Schmidt said Tuesday from his farm near Durham, Ont., about 45 kilometres south of Owen Sound.

“When there is a law which is unjust and which claims that the milk is OK as long as the farmer drinks it, but the milk is dangerous as soon as it crosses the road, that law doesn’t make sense.”

Schmidt, 52, who came to Canada from southern Germany 24 years ago, was scheduled to spend Wednesday – Day 7 of his hunger strike – making his case at a downtown Toronto restaurant owned by celebrity chef and supporter Jamie Kennedy.

He’s been consuming nothing but water and a glass of unpasteurized milk a day to protest last week’s raid, in which 20 armed Ministry of Natural Resources officers descended on his farm.

Schmidt, who blamed the raid on “ego-tripping bureaucrats,” said he’ll stay on the hunger strike until he’s reimbursed for his losses, authorities agree to leave him alone and everything taken from his farm is returned.

“It’s every citizen’s responsibility to oppose an unjust law,” he said. “It’s a moral responsibility from responsible citizens.”

Canadian health authorities say unpasteurized milk can contain potentially lethal E. coli, salmonella or other dangerous organisms. Federal law prevents the sale or giving away of unpasteurized milk in Canada, and Ontario’s own Milk Act contains a similar ban.

“There has been a law in Ontario that any milk sold to the public has to be pasteurized that’s been on the books since 1930,” said Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky.

“It’s important that it’s there. It’s there for a good reason.”

Proponents say raw milk offers health benefits, and is safe as long as the farmer is careful in its handling.

Following his last run-in with authorities in 1994, when he was convicted, Schmidt changed his tack to take advantage of a loophole in the Milk Act that allows farmers to drink raw milk from their own cows.

He now has 150 cow-shareholders – each buys a share of a cow for $300, and pays $2 a litre for the milk their animal produces – which include members of Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara’s family.

Shareholder Judith McGill, of Richmond Hill, Ont., just north of Toronto, called the bust “outrageous.”

“We prefer to buy our foods through farmers; we want to have a relationship with the farmer,” McGill said. “This is a foolproof system: to buy food from people you know and trust.”

The Ontario Landowners Association, a group that aims to preserve a rural way of life it sees as increasingly under attack, has also rallied to Schmidt’s cause.

“This is just another example of government’s thirst to control each and every aspect of people’s lives in this country and creating regulations that provide no value to anybody,” association president Randy Hillier said from near Ottawa.

“We are not going to take this intrusion and this removal of our freedoms lightly. We are going to stand and defend ourselves.”

Members and fellow farmers were ready to guard Schmidt’s farm should authorities try another raid, Hillier said.

Schmidt said he was flabbergasted by the day-long raid that he said left him feeling as if he were a dangerous criminal.

“This time it was an army attack, literally,” Schmidt said.

“It’s just milk!”


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