Michael Schmidt

Six weeks ago, I published an article by Canadian lawyer Karen Selick about the government “sheep-napping” case against food-rights activist and dairy farmer Michael Schmidt and sheep farmer Montana Jones.

That article described how the Canadian government, via the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, was trying to legally, and financially, strangle Schmidt, Jones, and a third defendant in the case, Robert Pinnell, dating from 2010. Selick, of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, charged that the Canadian government has intentionally dragged the case out, and made it very difficult for the defendants to legally defend themselves, as part of an effort to deplete their funds, and force them into plea bargains that would likely lead to them being jailed.

Selick also announced the launch of a crowd-funding campaign to raise $50,000 to help funds for the defendants’ legal defense.

Well, since that announcement, Canadian agencies continue to ratchet up pressure on Schmidt and his co-defendants.

-Yesterday, Ontario public health officials seized samples of raw milk from a delivery of raw milk being made north of Toronto to shareholders of Schmidt’s farm. Shareholders apparently stood in the way of public health inspectors, who were about to seize much or all of the milk; the inspectors returned shortly after with a search warrant and took milk ”samples.”

-In just the last few weeks, Schmidt discovered high-performance video cameras hidden in trees near his property, photographing people who might be visiting his farm. When Schmidt reported the existence of the cameras to surprised local police, they came back to him—clearly on orders from higher-ups—and threatened to charge Schmidt further for taking possession of the cameras. I suggest you read Schmidt’s account of the camera affair on The Bovine blog.

-All this is on top of a twenty-year campaign by Ontario officials against Schmidt’s raw milk sales that had seemed to end last year. It’s a campaign that saw Schmidt win as his own lawyer in court against a team of government prosecutors in 2009, only to lose a few years later when the government appealed, and the case went to the Canadian Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case last year. (For articles on his earlier raw milk struggles, search out “Michael Schmidt” on this blog.)

In the meantime, the campaign to raise legal funds is going slower than it needs to go, having raised $16,000-plus of the total $50,000 needed. Now, with less than a week to go, the campaign needs to swing into high gear.

It seems clear that high-ranking Canadian regulators have decided to continue ratcheting up the pressure against Schmidt, in hopes of having him jailed, and unable to continue challenging them.

The Canadian government’s Shropshire sheeep case is being carried out in secret, not much different from a case against a terrorist or high-ranking drug kingpin. In the case of Schmidt, the government seems especially concerned about reports of irregularities and possibly illegal behavior on the part of government agencies, that has emerged from prosecution documents handed over to the defense as part of the case.

Part of the problem confronting Schmidt and his co-defendants is that their alleged “crime” in the sheep-napping case is difficult for people to fully understand. It’s not just a case of challenging statutes against raw milk, but rather standing up for arbitrary government seizure of rare farm animals in a dubious case alleging illness of the animals.

Regulators clearly became very angry with the defiance of Schmidt, Montana, et.al. The regulators made the case personal. But in doing so, they broke rules and cut corners in making their case. As the prosecution handed over documents suggesting misconduct by the regulators, a judge slapped a news blackout on the case, as I described in a previous post.

The government would like to break the Schmidt defendants—bankrupt them financially and thereby force them into a plea deal whereby they are forced to plead guilty to the various conspiracy charges, in exchange for a lesser jail sentence than they could receive if they are convicted. But the chances of them being convicted by a jury that learns about all the outrages? It’s not a slam dunk, but the Schmidt group has a pretty good shot at vindication, and making the government look real bad. That’s why it’s so urgent to support the Schmidt group’s crowdfunding campaign.