In Florida, we now have a proposed “Food Freedom Act” that would allow small farms to sell cracked pecans, lettuce, eggs, and chickens direct to consumers such as via farmers markets, free of burdensome regulation covering facilities, packaging, and growing rules (though raw milk seems not to be included in the exemptions).

Wyoming’s “Food Freedom Act”, which does include raw milk (thought there’s talk it could be eliminated in final negotiations), has passed the House by a wide margin, and is now pending in the state Senate.

And the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund suit against the FDA is based on rights—those spelled out so clearly in the U.S. Constituion.

Clearly, freedom and rights are resonating with voters and legislators alike. As Bob Hayles points out following my previous post, the hope of advocates for raw milk and other foods lies not in convincing regulators and legislators of their safety, but of our rights as individuals to assume risk and make our own decisions. 

Ironically, a psychiatrist provides perhaps the best explanation of why this focus on rights is the only path with hope for success. His focus is on the mind of the regulator, a subject I spoke about last November at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s annual conference.

One point I made in my talk is that the public health and agriculture regulators often feel passionate about restricting our access to raw milk—they see themselves “protecting” people, saving little children.

The psychiatrist, Richard Schwartzman, goes much further in his analysis. A psychiatrist who attended my recent talk at Rutgers University and has expertise on the subject of regulation, goes me one step further. He says many of the regulators are obsessed.

“They believe, in their heart of hearts, what they are doing is right and necessary,  he writes (with the italics). “There is always an element of truth that justifies their control over others. It is this truth–the partly right–that creates much confusion…In the case of unpasteurized milk, the assertion of a health hazard causes many decent and openminded people to side with the FDA. Notwithstanding, there may often be a sense something is not right in what the government is doing, but good people can’t place a finger on it.”

Richard Schwartzman diagnoses the problem as something he labels an “emotional plague.”

Here is how he explains it: “The principal element of the plague is a compulsion to control the natural behavior of others. Those suffering with the plague cannot tolerate actions that don’t conform to their rigid ways of thinking. When people choose to live as they see fit, especially when it is in accord with healthy, natural functioning, those afflicted with the plague experience intense anxiety. They cannot tolerate the feelings that rise up in them when people are happy and enjoying life naturally. Their thinking and actions are always extremely well-rationalized as being for the common good…Unlike the neurotic who suffers inwardly without troubling others, ‘plaguey’ people deal with their emotional upset by attempting to control its source, the behavior of others, which stirs up in them an intense longing for living the natural life that they themselves cannot live. But they just don’t see it. In their minds they must stop ‘dangerous’ activities and behaviors, never realizing their prohibitive actions are not really for the good of others but rather to make themselves feel better by putting an end to the behavior that makes them intensely anxious.”

In Richard Schwartzman’s view, “One might expect that honorable people with good intentions, on both sides of the table, could somehow resolve the raw milk issue without battling in court…”

“I contend no matter how much proof of safety is presented or what additional information is provided, the government authorities will never relent in their efforts to end sales of unpasteurized milk.”

Why? “The safety of unpasteurized milk and the best interest of the public are not the sole or even primary reason for the government’s attack. It is its stated reason, and because the safety issue does have validity and is partly right, the more insidious underlying aspect of the emotional plague remains hidden.”

My sense is that the psychiatrist is onto something in providing guidance for fighting the battle at hand. It seems that only by pushing, and pushing hard, can progress be made. Pushing means organizing public concern and outrage over the regulators’ attempts to beat back food rights. The regulators will use every means at their disposal, until the public spotlight shines so brightly and intensively on their activities that they are pushed toward the right decision. In Framingham, MA, it seems as if the bright light of public pressure has finally encouraged that town’s Board of Health to relax its push on such stringent regulations that farmer Doug Stephan will be allowed, finally, to sell raw milk.

In Wisconsin, though, the maneuvering goes on. Hearings scheduled for March 16 in Madison in the state Assembly on legislation to allow sales of raw milk from approved farms have been canceled. Instead, Assembly and Senate hearings are now scheduled to be held jointly March 10, in Eau Claire, WI. Sounds good, except Eau Claire is three hours from Madison and far removed from population centers—much less likely to attract throngs of supporters who could make the legislators and regulators uncomfortable.

As the psychiatrist suggests, we are dealing with people who will fight tooth-and-nail to avoid to control our eating habits. Here’s a suggestion: let’s take up a collection to pay Richard Schwartzman to lead some group therapy sessions for the regulators.