It sure would be nice if the emerging food rights movement could always pick its spots to protest government brutality and criminality against farmers and food clubs. Note, I am choosing my words carefully here. Yes, when government agents from ten or more agencies steal hundreds of pounds, thousands of dollars, worth of food–not once, but twice in 15 months– that members of a club have contracted for, that is brutality and criminality.

I’m talking about the Rawesome Food Club situation, but it’s not just Rawesome that has been brutalized. It’s Denise and Joseph Dixon (Morningland Dairy), Barb and Steve Smith (Meadowsweet Dairy), Dan Allgyer, Michael Hulme, Toni Bechard, Brigitte Ruthman, Wayne Craig, Mark Zinniker, Max Kane, Vernon Hershberger, Grassfed on the Hill food club, Gary Oaks, Richard Hebron…Jeez, try saying all those in one breath. And their compatriots in Canada are intent on making an example out of Michael Schmidt. I’m sure I’ve missed some names here, and we don’t even know all those that have been hit hard by the ripple effects of the government clampdown on Rawesome and these other food clubs and farmers. Sharon Palmer was just one of many farmer suppliers to the food club.

Not long ago, after I wrote about how the raids against Rawesome were threatening the availability of nutrient-dense food to many people, someone commented that she’d just go to another food club in Los Angeles to get her food. Sure, that might work for a while…till they go after that food club.

Believe me, they will keep picking farmers and food clubs off, one by one, unless people stand up and say, Enough! But so long as they say, as Amanda Rose and Raw Milk Advocate have essentially said, “Well, I don’t approve of Sharon Palmer, so I’m going to sit this one out,” we’ll be playing into the thugs’ game plan.

In addition to picking farmers and clubs off one by one, they want to divide the opposition. They do that most effectively when Amanda Rose states, “I am hearing from LA sources that some consumers have looked into the Palmer allegations…” Yes, whisperings and rumors are what they want. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sharon Palmer isn’t charged with fraud in outsourcing. She is charged with selling raw milk without a license and selling food that didn’t meet federal labeling law requirements. If there are other charges against her, take those up separately. But for the thugs trying to scare people away from food clubs, that wouldn’t serve their real purpose.

One indication of how much the authorities relish these internal whispers and accusations is when Milky Way says, “What’s really odd here is that a movement so seemingly passionate about everything except food safety, tolerates vendors outsourcing and mis-labeling food…” No matter what you do, these apologists for the government crackdown will find fault. Backing a food club under attack? You don’t care about safety. Get obsessive about the safety issue, and then they tease you about why you aren’t defending this farmer or that farmer.

I happen to be on the RAWMI Advisory Board, and like many others in favor of food rights have said that food safety is a high priority. RAWMI is but one approach for encouraging safety for raw dairy. But if the producers are all bullied and intimidated out of business, there won’t be any safety issues to worry about, will there?

The challenge to food rights is coming to a head even as I write. Michael Schmidt had undertaken a brave hunger strike in Canada. Max Kane and Vernon Hershberger are doing their own hunger strikes in direct sympathy. Others are joining in.

I’d much prefer to have the kind of great discussions that occurred following my previous post about handling calves and feeding dairy cows all grass or including some grains. Those are useful discussions that inform and educate. The more intense the government’s campaign, the more they are likely to become a luxury…and eventually even hypothetical in nature.

It’s tempting, when the battle heats up, to want to find a nice safe place on the sidelines. The authorities are hoping lots of people will want to do that. Things like hunger strikes and courthouse protest rallies make them nervous. They fear above all the masses finding out the truth about what is happening. And what is happening is that the thugs are systematically seeking to deprive us of nutrient-dense foods, using the excuse of food safety.  It would be nice if everyone could just get a goat, but even if they do, the thugs may well come for those as well. Didn’t a judge just one-up the FDA and say we don’t have a right to our own cow, or to its milk?

The time is now. I hope I’ll see some of you in Los Angeles this week.
Probably his fullest assessment of raw dairy comes today from food writer Michael Pollan in today’s New York Times. He considers the advantages (taste, nutrition, better cheeses) and disadvantages (“several cases of people, especially children, getting sick…”), and then concludes:   

“You do have to wonder about the Food and Drug Administration’s priorities. Why is the government putting its resources into shutting down raw-milk producers, a teeny-tiny ‘industry,’ when there are many more serious threats to food safety on factory farms? (In fact the overwhelming majority of illnesses tied to milk and cheese come from pasteurized products.) While Amish dairymen are being raided by the F.D.A., Jack DeCoster, the notorious Iowa egg producer whose filthy, salmonella-infected eggs were linked to an outbreak that sickened more than 1,500 people last year, received a mild warning letter from the F.D.A. What is going on here? Sounds like political theater to me.”