B.C. judge orders Alice Jongerden not to milk cows

Supporters and shareholders filled the courtroom in New Westminster, B.C. today to witness whether dairy farmer Alice Jongerden would be found in contempt of court for continuing to milk the cows owned by the Home on the Range milk cooperative.

The judge did not seem to take kindly to Ms. Jongerden having no legal counsel, to her attempts to submit evidence into the case, or to her request for cross-examination of the witness who had signed an affadavit against her. At one point he pointed directly at Ms. Jongerden and seemingly lost his temper, as he raised his voice and jabbed his finger in her direction.

Ms. Jongerden, on the other hand, seemed remarkably poised, further giving the situation a David versus Goliath feel.

The finger pointing was brought on by Ms. Jongerden saying that she was not distributing raw milk for human consumption, but rather milking the cows owned by the shareholders and that it was none of her business what they did with the milk after she fulfilled her job. She had an empty milk jar with a sticker that said: "Not for human consumption."

With her at the table, Ms. Jongerden had two share members. Behind her all the available seats in the courtroom were filled with an assortment of mothers with babies, men in business suits, and elderly: all there in support of "their cows." The judge reiterated to the courtroom and to Ms. Jongerden that the attempt of court hearing just implicated her. He would consider hearing from the other cow owners and supporters, but he did not have to hear from them he said, he would only take it under consideration.

After more back and forth and a ten minute recess where Ms. Jongerden asked the share members present what they wanted her to do: go for an adjournment or face the contempt of court charge today, she decided to seek an adjournment.

The lawyer representing the Fraser Health Authorities had made the one month adjournment conditional on Ms. Jongerden swearing to not produce or distribute any raw milk during that time. After listening to the conversations during the recess, the lawyer tried to change the terms to include anybody who had read the notice, but the judge would not do it. The shareholders frantically began to discuss who would milk their cows.

Courts can wait and fair hearings can be put on hold, but at 4 p.m today, and  tomorrow at 4 a.m., the cow's udders will be full. Someone will have to milk them.

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