Ontario farmer prosecuted for
selling raw milk says he will not stop
Source of Article: http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5hOnqRqWlQBD_-E-nyHmIGTK9wXAg
NEWMARKET, Ont. — An organic dairy farmer
from southern Ontario
vowed Monday to continue the illegal sale of raw milk, just minutes after
being found guilty of contempt of court for ignoring an order to cease
selling the product.
"Yes, we will continue with what we're doing," Michael Schmidt
said following the ruling, as he and several supporters made a show of
chugging back glasses of milk in front of the courthouse in Newmarket, Ont. It was unclear whether or not the milk
was raw or pasteurized.
Schmidt has run a co-operative organic dairy farm near Owen Sound, Ont., for more than 20 years.
York Region, north of Toronto,
had accused Schmidt of selling raw milk, even after he was ordered by the
court not to do so.
Selling unpasteurized milk is illegal in Canada because health officials
say it can carry salmonella, E. coli and Listeria.
Raw milk advocates say they drink it for its flavour,
organic properties and health benefits.
Justice Cary Boswell said his ruling had nothing to do with whether or not
people have the right to consume raw milk, but rather whether Schmidt
knowingly defied the court order to stop selling it.
The judge cited news articles in which Schmidt admitted he sold the milk
and that he knew the consequence of ignoring a court order as the basis for
his finding of guilt.
He told Schmidt he should stay within the rule of law in seeking to make
the sale of raw milk legal and called his actions "not only illegal, but
A defiant Schmidt asked for "the highest penalty you can find,"
suggesting he is willing to go to jail for his crusade.
Outside court, he went so far as to liken himself to Mahatma Gandhi and
Martin Luther King Jr.
"When Gandhi picked up the salt, he kept marching, and when Martin
Luther started the Montgomery
bus strike, he kept going until the law was changed," Schmidt said.
Schmidt said milk from his animals is regularly tested and that in 14
years no one who has consumed his products have been
made sick. He said a recent series of foodborne
outbreaks in Canada
bolsters the public's desire for natural products.
"They're turned off by mass regulated food supplies," Schmidt
said. "They'd rather look at a food source they can trust, and that
means looking in the farmer's eye."
Bill Mitchell, of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, strongly contests
Schmidt's claim that consuming raw milk should be an individual choice.
"A lot of the organisms that can be transmitted through raw milk are
transmissible," he said.
"Anytime we see legislation that's in place to protect the public
health being enforced, it's a good thing."
Brendan Ferguson, of Toronto,
is one of Schmidt's supporters, even though he is lactose intolerant and
unable to drink milk at all.
"This is a historic case in terms of the rights and freedoms that the
government allows its people to have," he said in explaining his
involvement with the farmer's plight.
Schmidt, who defended himself in court to save money for representation at
another trial scheduled for next year, had argued that the case against him
The judge agreed Monday, noting that local health authorities had the
power to test Schmidt's milk to see if was pasteurized or not, but failed to
However, Boswell rejected the prosecution's argument that Schmidt was
motivated by making money.
"This pursuit has cost Mr. Schmidt substantially," the judge
The prosecution is seeking a $5,000 fine for Schmidt and an order that he
pay more than $53,000 in court costs.
In January, Schmidt faces an additional 20 charges laid by the Ministry of
Natural Resources and the Grey-Bruce Health Unit, again involving the sale of