Canadian raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt reports he is being pursued, yet again, by regulators in Ontario. “After 28 years in court, my friend Glen Jarvie investigator for the Government returned with court papers and charged us once again,” Schmidt posted on Facebook a few days ago. “March 22nd is our 29th year in court to defend us for providing people with food they need and want. I am excited.” Accompanying the post were photos of the plainclothes cop, Glen Jarvie, in his car monitoring the farm and approaching the farm with court papers.
Dozens of comments supportive of Schmidt followed on Facebook, most of them outraged that the Ontario government continues its relentless pursuit of a farmer who sells raw milk privately, and has no record of having made a single individual ill from his milk in the 29 years of government raids, court hearings, fines, and even jailings of Schmidt.
“Maybe we should get some truckers involved,” said one of the commenters. “This is so ridiculous.”
Wouldn’t that be a great idea, thought I. But it will never happen. How do I know? Because it hasn’t yet in the nearly 30 years that Schmidt has been fighting his lonely battle. It’s not as if the truckers are unaware—Schmidt has received huge amounts of publicity across Canada for his willingness to stand up on behalf of food freedom. And it’s not as if Schmidt hasn’t been supportive of them—his Facebook page is loaded with tapes of anti-government speeches and interviews on behalf of the truckers.
But the issue of the day is vaccines, and objections the truckers have to being required to be vaccinated or quarantined and tested on returning from trips to the U.S.
Why would one public health issue raise little more than a few deep sighs, and the other have people completely transfixed? For the simple reason that vaccines have become a right-wing cause celebre over the course of the pandemic. As Politico, a middle-of-the-road site, put it Sunday:
“But while the Canadian standoff against Covid-19 restrictions paralyzes Ottawa, it’s becoming viral online as a rallying cry for leading U.S. Republican politicians, far-right influencers and white supremacist groups who have transposed the criticism of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to an international audience for their own political gain.
“Politicians from former President Donald Trump to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) have championed the nationwide protests in Canada, which began in response to Ottawa’s vaccine mandate for truckers entering Canada. It has quickly escalated into a global movement incorporating a loose set of anti-establishment causes, coordinated on social media and encrypted messaging groups.”
Proponents of raw milk and food rights have never found a way to politicize their issue in this way….not that Michael Schmidt would have wanted to. He has always envisioned the issue attracting support from all parts of the political spectrum, and eventual compromise based on everyone’s sense of good will, linked to the issue’s intrinsic merit. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works these days. He’s been fighting a government-imposed monopoly system of producing milk, which is difficult to explain. Also difficult to explain is that his raw milk has never proven a danger, despite public health claims to the contrary. But the truckers who haul all that state-mandated pasteurized milk have had little inclination to care about a lone miserable dairy farmer, no matter how badly persecuted he has been.
Vaccine mandates, though, are inconvenient and annoying, especially when the public health crisis necessitating them has been going on for two years. And with the growing sense that the public health problem is less severe than it was months ago, why the hell should anyone have to continue with unpleasant requirements?
Moreover, there’s political glamor in protesting vaccine mandates. It arouses visions of hidden conspiracies and ready villains like Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci. You can be like former raw milk activist Sally Fallon Morrel and co-write a best-selling book blaming the pandemic on 5G Internet connections, or like supplement seller Joseph Mercola and be labeled the top spreader of Covid misinformation. Too much fun!
I have to think that Schmidt and many of his supporters assume that the political chaos the truckers hope to reap will somehow translate into reduced food regulation in Canada, which will enable Schmidt at long last to freely distribute his raw dairy. Maybe, except that food freedom doesn’t seem to be a priority of the American and other extremists trying to grab hold of the Canadian trucker ride.
Anyway, I hope the trucking protest ends peacefully for Canadians, and they get what they want from their public health authorities and politicians. And I hope that maybe they’ll be inclined to spare a horn honk or two for Michael Schmidt.