Mark McAfee and James Stewart at raw milk rally last Wednesday in Los Angeles. I’ve been fond of telling whomever will listen that the U.S. is  in a war over food rights. But I must amend that. We’re in a guerrilla war over food rights.  There’s an important distinction.

A war implies that two sides are sort of evenly matched. But it’s pretty obvious that the U.S. government and its financially dependent states possess overwhelming firepower, and aren’t afraid to use it on small farms and consumers alike.

There are frequent references on this blog to the “movement” that is expected to win back our rights. And that certain people are or aren’t good representatives of the movement or are taking the wrong steps. The underlying assumption is that we’re talking about a single unified movement.

In reality, though, movements don’t unfold that way. Nor do guerrilla wars that underlie such movements.

Oftentimes, they aren’t very pretty, and the people behind them not very attractive. Menachem Begin, the Israeli leader who signed the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 was, in his younger days, the leader of a guerrilla movement that planted bombs and blew up British civilians, often to the disgust of other members of the movement for an independent Israel. Malcolm X, the black leader who is so admired today, used to suggest violence against the “white devils.”

No one is suggesting violence on behalf of food rights, but we can expect continuing government pressure (and violence) to increase as the word spreads more widely, and growing numbers of people begin to understand the nature of the government’s threat on their food. In response, we can expect the movement to adjust and change, along with the alliances and forms of resistance.

Case in point came at the pre-hearing rally for the Rawesome Three last Wednesday evening in Los Angeles. The 75 or so attendees saw for the first time on stage together two old enemies–James Stewart, the manager of Rawesome Food Club, and Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. The two have been at loggerheads since 2004, when McAfee fired Stewart as OPDC’s southern California distributor.

A number of Rawesome members told me that the shutdown of Rawesome hasn’t meant the food void many feared. Instead, at least three new food clubs (and possibly more) appear to have sprung up in and around Los Angeles to replace it. That’s the sign of a healthy response–they eliminate one food club, and people set up three, or four, or six new ones. Heck. each time they do a raid, more people sign up and new food clubs spring up–what better marketing can you ask for? Well, maybe there are less costly and upsetting ways, but in terms of the outcomes, that’s certainly not what the authorities had in mind.

Michael Schmidt after his court victory in early 2010, which has since been reversed. Then there’s the hunger strike front, and there, once again, things aren’t pretty, and the outcome far from certain. Raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt reports from Ontario, Canada, that he is in Day 10 of his hunger strike, has stopped consuming any food and now only drinks water. His demands:
“I respectfully ask that the Ontario and BC governments agree to a constructive dialogue on how we can provide a framework to enable people to make real choices about their food and what they eat, beginning with raw milk and the implementation of a framework that grants legal standing for cow share operations in Ontario and BC. This objective also includes the end of the current prosecutions of cow shares which meet proper production standards.”

So if I understand correctly, he is talking about the oft-demanded safety standards that food regulators accuse raw dairy advocates of ignoring. There should be lots to discuss in the “constructive dialogue” Schmidt seeks.

He says that eight Americans and Canadians have joined what he terms  “this Hunger Strike for Responsible Food Freedom.” They include Max Kane, the Wisconsin activist; Vernon Hershberger, the Wisconsin raw milk farmer; Bernie Cosgrove, an Alberta farmer; and five others who don’t want to be named right now.

Those running the attacks on food rights might want to keep in mind Gen. David Petraeus’ pioneering strategy on dealing with an insurgency: “The protection, welfare, and support of the people are vital to success.”

There is an academic study out reenforcing the healing potential of raw milk. This one is a review of numerous studies around the world on the impact of both raw milk and farm living on building immunity. Here are a few quotes:

“Maternal contact with increasing numbers of farm animal species, work in barns, and stables and the consumption of unprocessed cow’s milk during pregnancy were shown to be the relevant protective exposures.”

“Thus, both the pasteurization and homogenization of cow’s milk might abolish the asthma- and allergy-protective effects.”

“The protective effect of unprocessed cow’s milk consumption is a recurrent epidemiological finding, but no model is yet available to explore its mechanistic implications. The importance of the exposure route (gut versus airways) is also still a matter of speculation.”

How much evidence must there be for America’s scientific community to take notice? Thanks to Joseph Heckman, a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, for forwarding the study.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is promoting a special deal on Joel Salatin’s new book: Folks, This Ain’t Normal. Buy one and get the second at half price…and support both FTCLDF and a book that promotes food rights.