I’m beginning to think that, eventually, we’re going to be looking to the courts to resolve the ever-more-inflamed passions around food rights.

The Rawesome raid has unleashed ugly pent-up feelings in many places.

Following my August 3 post, Ron Garthwaite of Claravale Dairy said James Stewart, Rawesome’s manager, “deserves to be in jail” because of some past business dealings gone bad. Now, someone involved in a Santa Monica and Sacramento co-op is calling for a boycott of Claravale.

As we see on this blog, the old feud between Amanda Rose and Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. is once again bursting into the open. (Kudos to McAfee for opening his milk pool records; I saw an email today from a media person wanting to follow up on the Rawesome raid, who said, “I called Trader Joe’s today to ask where they get their goats milk from and what they feed the goats. They said they could not disclose any information.”)

Maurice Kaehler puts it aptly, “We have met the enemy…and they are us.”

Everyone seems to have an opinion on what the Rawesome situation represents, but it may be we’ll have to watch the legal proceedings unfold to fully understand what’s happening. Remember, the three people charged in connection with the Rawesome case are now in the criminal realm, which has important implications (aside from the fact that they’ve already been thrown in jail.)

This is the first criminal case involving food rights that I am aware of. Everything else has been in the civil arena, where the rules of evidence are less strict, and the stakes not as high. I read where James Stewart could potentially be looking at eight years in jail if convicted of all charges.

Second, the defendants should have an opportunity to go before a jury of their peers. The civil cases until now have all been decided by judges.

Third, this kind of high-profile case could attract high-profile criminal defense lawyers. Mark McAfee said in a comment that he’s heard one such lawyer could be Christopher Darden, of O.J. Simpson fame.

Finally, the decision by prosecutors to put this into the criminal realm, in an area of the country where the passions over food and health are so strong, suggests the various agencies involved in the case feel they have a solid case.

The answers to two key related questions will tell us a good deal about the relevance of this case to the larger matter of food rights:

1. How eager will the prosecution be to settle this case before it goes to trial?
2. How eager will the defendants be to cop a plea?

The extent to which the defendants are willing to appear before a jury of their peers, and risk jail terms, will tell us much about how convinced they are that this is a case entirely about food rights and the right of association…and not a case of outsourcing gone bad or some other business screwup.
One of the things we have to keep reminding ourselves about in the Rawesome case is that this huge police action has occurred without a single case of illness from pathogens.

As a few people have noted, while this huge undercover investigation and crackdown has been occurring, Cargill has made dozens of people ill, including one death, with turkey poisoned with antibiotic-resistant salmonella.

Now, we come to learn via an astounding Wired piece, that it’s not even illegal for Cargill to be selling tainted turkey. No, under U.S. Department of Agriculture rules (which govern sale of meat), such salmonella is not even illegal. U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules (which govern milk and eggs) are different. But once again, we’re not talking about tainted product in the Rawesome case.

Talk about perversion of justice.