The raw milk debate: Did Canada just give away your right to choose what you consume?
No right to milk for Canadians?
Hey Canadians, you have no right to drink milk says the Ontario Court of Justice. Specifically, the judge overturned an earlier court's decision to allow informed consent for cowshare members to drink raw milk in Ontario, saying" “The entitlement to consume milk, raw or otherwise, is not a Charter protected right.”
This declaration by a Canadian court came just on the tail of a similar declaration in a Wisconsin court which ruled that people in that U.S. state “do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice….”
These attacks on food freedom are the most recent saga in the ongoing legal battle about the constitutionality of raw milk. In the U.S., that battle is fought state by state, with the majority of states allowing it in some form or other—either for sale on the grocery store shelf (like across the border in Washington state) or for sale only through a co-op structure where a person becomes a partial owner of a cow. In Canada the battle is moving from the provinces to the national stage. “Canada is the only G8 country to ban the sale of [raw milk] products, which some argue has greater health benefits than the available pasteurized milk,” according to the National Post.
All food rights banned?
This current episode is particularly disturbing, especially to North America’s growing foodies; both judges claim that there is no constitutional or Charter right to consume milk (raw or otherwise) or, it seems, any other food.
“The implications are far-reaching,” according to a Vancouver Sun article by Karen Selick, the lawyer defending Michael Schmidt in the Ontario raw milk case, “If the judge is right about this, future courts could similarly declare that you have no right to eat meat, poultry, seafood, fruit, vegetables, or grains, even if government-approved — in short, you may have no right to eat anything at all.”
Is food a liberty?
The Vancouver Sun article looks deeper into whether food is a liberty. Ms. Selick says: “In one very technical sense, the courts’ statements are accurate: there is no specific reference to milk, or indeed any food, in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the U.S. Bill of Rights.” She says that both documents are equally silent about all sorts of things that the average Canadian and average American hold as fundamental human rights: “getting out of bed in the morning…to use the bathroom, to put on clothes.” Instead of listing every detail of every thing we consider to be a part of our daily freedoms, the documents say “that people had the right to liberty.”
Poll after poll, including ones conducted on the Vancouver Observer and numerous other media outlets, all come out the same: people believe that in Canada we should have the right to make informed decisions about our food choices, including raw milk.
Because what is liberty if not being able to choose what you put in your belly?
Michael Schmidt, the farmer and defendent in the Ontario raw milk case, is currently on a hunger strike to bring attention to the enormity of the recent court hearings. Learn more about his situation.
By Manda Aufochs Gillespie aka The Green Mama. Manda has been known to butter-up a big slice of 100 mile bread with fresh, raw butter. Learn more about milk, healthy eating, and organic food on a budget at www.thegreenmama.com.