On Wednesday the raw milk community received the shocking news that the Ontario, Canada dairy farmer was sentenced to 60 days behind bars for his role in attempting to stop officials from raiding his farm more than two years ago. This is to be served over 15 weekends in order to allow him to continue farming over week days.
Two years ago, Michael along with about 70 friends, neighbours and members of the Glencolton cow share blocked the police, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs and also the Ministry of Natural Resources from leaving the farm after they conducted a raid and attempted to confiscate equipment. There was a standoff as people refused to let government officials leave the property, by using parked tractors at the entrance to the farm, until the lead investigator agreed to give back what they took. Michael said there was no violence during the raid. People were only protecting private property and farm owners' rights.
According to this article judge Ronald Minard said he considered Michael's charge of obstructing an officer, as a serious matter and that a jail term would serve notice to him and the general public that they must abide by the rule of law.
According to a raw milk supporter in the video below, this decision is just another warning message to farmers that they will be sent to jail if they sell unprocessed milk. Although the charges are not directly related to the production of raw milk, supporters feel that it is Michael's farming practises and his push to change the law surrounding raw milk that actually were on trial.
According to this news article Michael said that it has been such a waste of government resources for the past two decades.
“It would have been so simple 24 years ago to say, ‘Michael, let’s sit down. Figure this out. Here are our guidelines for that’. They would have saved millions of dollars. The process to go through, the punishment, the never-ending trials, the ridiculous charges, and then probably a strange sentencing. I don’t know what they will come up with, but I don’t really care”
“I think it’s pretty stubborn behaviour of public officials. There are so many things you can look at like, the opioid crisis.”
According to this article another farmer, Lewis 'Skip' Taylor, said that the cooperative of 130 families were the only ones drinking the raw milk and no law was actually broken since there was no commercial purpose.
Lewis also said that everyone wanted to be compliant with the law and that more than 250,000 Ontarians drink raw milk "under the table".
Michael, who is 63, said that he is fully prepared to go to jail for his cause and he is not intimidated. He has been campaigning for the right to sell unprocessed milk for 22 years and he has been in court rooms multiple times for issues related to raw milk. His jail sentence is to be served intermittently starting on 10 November. Michael plans to appeal his sentence. See the video below
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This is a valuable story because evidence shows that it is feasible to produce raw milk for human consumption under high quality controls and proper risk management. Installing a raw milk system is a fair solution to both respect consumer choice and protect public health.
Cross border shopping
According to reports, Canadians from the province British Colombia often do cross border shopping for raw dairy in Washington state where raw milk has been available for more than 11 years, see the article B.C. Fresh Milk Project. Retail sales of raw milk from cows, goats and sheep are legal there and according to one farmer there are more than 50 raw milk producers in the state of Washington.
The U.S. state of Maine, which borders the Canadian province of Quebec, is another one of the 43 out of 50 U.S. states where raw milk is available, see the Raw Milk Nation Map. Raw milk is regulated and there are 74 licensed raw milk farmers. According to this article they can produce value-added products such as raw milk cheese, butter, and yogurt. In Maine, raw milk is not a topic that government avoids. In fact, Maine provides a PowerPoint presentation advising farmers on how to get licensed and helpful guidelines for licensed raw milk farmers. Retail and farmers market sales are permitted. The article even provides a chart showing how demand for raw milk has grown in the state who started with 10 licensed farms in 2003.
Five more bordering American states have long established raw milk industries: New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Idaho and Pennsylvania. Two of our raw milk case studies are in New York state: Chaseholm Farm and North Country Creamery. We also have two case studies from Pennsylvania: Birchwood Farm and Wholesome Dairy Farms. Retail sale of raw milk happen to be legal in all these states too, except for Vermont where farm sales are legal. All 13 states bordering Canada now have raw milk access, with Montana being the latest.
Canadians need their raw milk for better health
Many Canadians have expressed over the years that they need the raw milk to help their families with conditions like asthma, allergies, eczema, ear infections and colds, see article Raw Milk: Newmarket Court Food Freedom rally.
According to this article by Canadian lawyer Karen Selick, the past decade have produced three major studies involving approximately 24,000 children showing that drinking raw milk in childhood results in a 41% lower risk of asthma, a 49% lower risk of hay fever and a 30% lower risk of respiratory infections and fever.
Karen said that Canadian authorities allege that drinking raw milk can be dangerous, even fatal, but so can asthma and respiratory infections.
In her article she mentioned that The Asthma Society of Canada estimates that 20 children and 500 adults die from asthma attacks every year.
Karen said that in 25 years none of the raw milk consumers drinking raw milk produced by Glencolton Farm have died or gotten sick.
Selling raw milk from cows for human consumption is illegal in only three countries; Australia, Scotland and Canada. These countries can do the responsible thing if they choose to and provide access to raw milk so that farmers are no longer targeted by the system and consumers can enjoy the food of their choice.
Click here to sign a petition to free Michael and to change the archaic raw milk laws in Canada.
For more information about the last raid on the farm and the events that followed, see the following articles:
For future generations
On the 10th of November Michael's son Markus shared a photo of an Ironwood tree that father and son planted in front of the dairy as a symbol of iron willed, but peaceful resistance "to the machine of bureaucracy and complacency within the governing structure of our country. Because of the dysfunctional nature of our current governing body future generations, long liberated of our shortcomings in the present shall enjoy its beauty and shade... We owe them that at least." Click to enlarge image.
Interview with lawyer Karen Selick
Karen was interviewed on the 14th of November about the case. She was Michael's lawyer for three years but has since retired. The audio is directly streamed from The Stafford Show. (source)
Listen to an interview with Michael posted on the 12th of November by clicking here. Michael only spent two weekends in jail and then was granted bail.