At least two Ontario farms that had been selling raw milk via herd share agreements have been raided in the last few days by Ontario health inspectors backed up by police.
The raids signal a new phase in Canada’s long-running battle against raw dairy that first came into the open in 1993 with a raid on Michael Schmidt’s Ontario raw-milk dairy. For the next 27 years that battle played out via additional raids and multiple court cases involving Schmidt, culminating in a ruling early this year by an Ontario judge affirming Canada’s long-standing ban on raw dairy. Since the decision was announced, Schmidt has moved to sell his dairy herd.
This information about the new raids comes from social media posts. The farmers who were raided have thus far declined to comment or otherwise be identified.
But the authorities have apparently decided that putting Schmidt out of business wouldn’t accomplish their goal of stamping out raw milk and maintaining the exclusive distribution and marketing authority of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario cartel, since a growing number of farms in Ontario and other provinces have quietly taken to selling raw milk via herdshares or directly from the farm over the last decade. For Canadian authorities, it’s almost like a suburban lawn that sprouts weeds while the homeowner is distracted in eradicating termites; that is, while the regulators have obsessed on ridding themselves of Schmidt, other dairies have sprouted to meet the growing demand for raw dairy. The situation is not unlike raw-dairy demand in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, except that most of those places have figured out ways to peacefully accommodate the demand, such as via on-farm inspections and sales, herdshare arrangements, or highly regulated retails sales.
Canada nearly alone in the world has decided on a version of prohibition similar to what the U.S. did with alcohol from 1920 to 1933. It took the U.S. only 13 years to realize that trying to ban a beverage many people valued just wasn’t going to work (see photo above).
The likeliest explanation for the exaggerated response against small Ontario farms, in the absence of any reported illnesses from raw milk, is that the Dairy Farmers of Ontario is protecting its cartel turf. It inserted itself into the court case initiated by Ontario consumers and farmers seeking a relaxation of the nearly total ban. Now it seems to be pressuring authorities to follow up on the organization’s legal victory against the farmers and consumers with a new enforcement campaign against raw milk.
From the cartel’s perspective, the financial stakes are significant. In a quick Google search, I found this within an in-depth assessment on Canadian dairy of recent trade law changes: “The average dairy producer’s net worth is nearly $5 million, and in 2016, the average producer earned an income of about $160,000, even after operating expenses had been paid, according to the most recent numbers available from Statistics Canada.”
As others have pointed out on this blog previously, the attitudes toward raw milk appear to be more permissive in British Columbia. In BC as well, there’s a reluctance to say much publicly, for fear of poking the beast.
Michael Schmidt is a warm, caring and kind human being and I am so sorry this is happening to him. Shame on the Ontario government and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario!
My family consumed unpasteurized milk for at least 10 years and the only ‘problem’ was trying to avoid authorities. When there was a problem, Michael came to BC to support the farmer in court … we SO appreciated his generosity and commitment!
Alas, we really do not have a choice as to what we put in our own bodies. No to milk from healthy cows … cows that graze in pastures and are well-loved. Yes to milk from cows that may never see the sunshine, are fed antibiotics and hormones .. wow!
My choice is to forgo any dairy products and to encourage others to do the same.
Michael, I want you to know that you are much loved and respected … blessings to you in the face of such ignorance.
I have heard that the producers were also selling eggs. Eggs are subject to quota regulation as well as milk. Supply management is key to assuring farmers thrive.
It’s a tragedy that the quota structure can not see or hear the consumer need for raw milk.
in British Columbia, the Egg Marketing Board has a categorical ‘personal exemption’ so that those who produce eggs for their own use may do so. In fact AND PERFECTLY LEGALLY, such eggs are sold at the farm gate. The exemptions have 2 categories : up to 99 laying birds. Then, up to 400 laying birds. For a relatively small fee, the producer gets a piece of paper extending permission from the Central Planning Commission ( sarcasm alert )
sending a letter with hard copies of how the Egg Marketing Board does it, I asked for something similar for a cowshare from the BC Milk Marketing Board. Reply was : ‘ we don’t know what you’re talking about’. Well, for the sake of them playing the sillybugger game, I’ll be in Supreme Court of British Columbia May 4th at 9:45 am with my Petition for a Declaration that we ( cowshare members ) do have the right to use and enjoy our own property
The quota system should be abbolished…why does the business of farming get a free pass from the free market for consumers
Unfortunately if it were not for the quota system in Canada our small farms would die. That is reality, it is their only remaining protection. Quota however and pasteurization are two very different topics.
Even with quota there are farm gate sales permitted in Ontario, that is not impacted. However those farms who are selling at their farms do still in fact own commercial pasteurization machines.
It is not farm sales that are prohibited, it is the unpasteurized milk. With our current laws, even without the quota raw milk sales would still be prohibited.
Stand tall. Thank you for taking this to the courts !
Gordon,, you slay me. And I say that in the best Possible light. Mark. you have the bucks why not put them som positive use I;m suure you hVE CONTACTS
Ora Moose ; au contraire. Throwing money down the sinkhole of the legal racket, is not one of the right ways to go about this Campaign for REAL MILK. with 35 years’ experience in Her Majesty’s Courts in British Columbia, I am the rare bird who can conduct my Petition for very little $s.
For instance: last time ’round, in 2012-2013, Home on the Range / Our Cows came up with $50,000 collected in small bills from cowshare members, to pay an excellent lawyer, only to be shut down.
what IS working here in BC, is : progress made because relentless people will not take “no” for an answer… they do the chores, day in and day out, producing REAL MILK mostly for appreciation from folks who understand the issue. Strong bones ; perfect teeth ; vitality in children. Over 25 years at it, now, I can see the difference before my very eyes.
there is a time and place for sophisticated legal action. Best example : Organic Pastures’ push to have distribution of raw milk butter, normalized. When that happens … and it will … it will be a game-changer all over America
here is the URL to an excellent article about the major myth in Agriculture ie. that small farms cannot feed the world
Good article… Re. the use of a “crisis narrative” the article states,
“What is needed to save rainforests and other habitats from agricultural expansion is instead to reduce the subsidies and incentives that are responsible for overproduction and unsustainable practices.”
In other words, do away with government cheap food policies that are the basis for, “the subsidies and incentives that are responsible for overproduction and unsustainable practices.”
“Too many participants in the food system depend on a crisis narrative”.
Indeed, the “crisis narrative” has taken centre stage in many areas of our lives. Apart from the food production crisis narrative there is also the climate change crisis narrative… the overpopulation crisis narrative… the disease pandemic crisis narrative… all of which are naratives that are being used to obtain comprehensive control.
The last paragraph, slightly altered is right on the mark… “It is agribusiness (with the aid of government policies and the media) that perpetuates the myth most actively and makes best use of it by endlessly championing itself as the only valid bulwark against starvation. It is agribusiness that most aggressively alleges that all other forms of agriculture are inadequate (Peekhaus, 2010). This Malthusian spectre is a good story, it’s had a tremendous run, but it’s just not true. By exposing it, we can free up agriculture to work for everyone.”
Indeed, and with a few substituted words the same can be said for the pharmaceutical industry… It is (pharma) with the aid of government policies and the media that perpetuates the (health crisis narrative) most actively and makes best use of it by endlessly championing itself as the only valid bulwark against (ill health and disease). It is (pharma) that most aggressively alleges that all other forms of (healthcare) are inadequate. By exposing the above narrative, we can free up (healthcare) to work for everyone.
Gordon is right. Lawsuits seldom change Canadian laws. Moving political will to change Canadian law happens mainly in the board room, not the court room. And not with lawyers, but mainly with laypeople, be they grass-roots advocates or professional lobbyists.
This court loss in Toronto hasn’t shown that raw milk is not going to be legalized in Canada. All it has done is to confirm, as with previous court decisions, that raw milk access is not a Charter right. But all is not lost — there are still other approaches that could be tried.
As a friend of mine said about the court decision (shared with permission):
“I’m not hopeful about an appeal, despite much of the science being ignored or misunderstood. The ruling was based on the ‘freedom of conscience’ issue. On that basis, the ruling seems quite sound – they hadn’t provided any evidence that there was significant impact on their ‘choices of conscience’ to demand overturning long-standing public health measures. I’m surprised actually that the lawyers let it go as far as it did, as the case didn’t seem (to me as a layperson in that respect) to have any weight against our charter rights …
“That said, the whole issue of ‘raw milk can be done safely’ vs ‘most raw milk is not done safely’ didn’t get addressed at all, as far as I heard, but a Charter rights case isn’t the place to do that. It needs a regulatory structure in place to make sure that if raw milk is to be produced, it is to be done according to best practices.”
I’m so sorry for the farmers and raw milk drinkers of Canada. What a short-sighted approach to this situation. As David points out in the post, prohibition of something the people want does not work. I hope that continued resistance will.
A huge congrats to our BC ??. The RAWMI trained raw milk producers have been testing their raw milk and just crossed the 800 samples tested mark. Zero pathogens detected in 800 samples ! That’s epic.
Those are the facts that completely contradict the official Canadian policy that all raw milk innately contains pathogens.
those concerned with the Campaign for REAL MILK in British Columbia
I put down the phone just now, talking to Mr Penner for the Legal Services Branch of the Attorney General, who represents the Respondents on my Petition for Judicial Review re the regulation about raw milk being illegal to distribute in British Columbia
the hearing of this matter has collapsed. It won’t go ahead tomorrow May 4th, as scheduled
Prior to “Covid”, a litigant was not required to consult with the other side for composing his Petition Record.
because I was not up-to=speed on changes to the Rules of Court because of “Covid”, my understanding was = that I did not have to co-ordinate with him on the Petition Record. Thus, the authorities upon which he intends to rely for his argument are not in a joint Petition Record.
Mr Penner told me that he will contact the Registry and advise them we’re not ready.
So the matter will be adjourned to a date in the future, yet to set.
the 2 hours that we estimated, is not a lot to ask for, lately. Thus the thing will be heard within the next couple of months
… this glitch doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It means I can focus on getting a new cowshare underway. I am inclined to start one up in the Fraser Valley, after casting-around here on Southern Vancouver Island for 3 years, with no leads to a place. If the Health Authorities don’t like that, and come at me … it will be fun going ’round the bush with them, in the Defensive position, again … a decade since our last skirmish. Now with crucial new information/ proofs generated by RAWMI
Gordon S Watson
file 20 0034 Victoria Registry Supreme Court of British Columbia
A long delay is a win in my book. Time is always precious and allows for more preparation and etc.
thank you Mark.
The REAL MILK is flowing today via a dozen little cowshares all over BC. Thousands of grateful people are drinking the good stuff, since you first came to speak to us in 2007.
Don’t forget all the several dozen little goatshares, Gordon. 🙂
The BC Herdshare group has taken our basic RAWMI training and exploded its application
Now there is real local data that can be used to battle with evidence of safety !
So proud of all you up in BC.
And goats too!! Don’t forget the goats.
Half the problems. They have half the teats and dry ?. Love the goats.
in Canada, the farm gate sales of Pasteur-ized milk came about only within the last decade. I say that that is a direct consequence of Home on the Range raw milk herdshare proving that city people would drive out to our farm, to get the good stuff. Same with the term “grass fed”. Prior to 2007 when we started saying it, you never saw it.
We know for a fact that the Dairy Farmers of Canada / the BC Milk Marketing Board, pay attention to the raw milk artisanal producers. The quota holders can see where it’s headed. As long as they have a captive market = the govt. is their customer = quota farms will survive … as serfs of the giant corporate food processers. In baby steps farmers are learning to do merchandising.