Canada is the only G8 country which does not allow the sale or distribution of raw milk
Farmer’s hunger strike for raw milk goes on
Though weakened by a 19-day hunger strike, Durham dairy farmer Michael Schmidt has drawn his line in the sand — it’s milky, white and unpasteurized — and he intends to defend it to the death, even if it’s his own.
The 57-year-old farmer and advocate of organic raw milk held a news conference at Queen’s Park Tuesday and also read a letter he was delivering to Dalton McGuinty in which he stated that his hunger strike would continue, unless the premier agreed to meet with him in person as soon as possible to discuss the right of people to buy food directly from farmers.
When the Star asked if he was willing to continue the hunger strike until he died, Schmidt’s solemn response was “Yes.’’
“I will go right to the end. I wouldn’t do that if I wouldn’t have tried for the last 17 years to establish a dialogue. If there had been one gesture of dialogue … but there was none,’’ said Schmidt.
The dairy farmer is appealing a recent Ontario Court of Justice decision that convicted him of 15 provincial offences related to selling unpasteurized milk. The provincial government had appealed a lower court decision in 2010 that ruled in Schmidt’s favour, allowing him to continue his raw milk co-operative.
“I came from Germany,’’ said Schmidt, who immigrated here in 1983. “I have seen the aftermath of a situation where people didn’t rise up when there was still time to rise up … This is more serious than most people think,’’ he said.
“What I’m asking is not impossible,’’ he said. “I’m not asking that the laws be changed right away… I’m asking that the harassment of farmers be stopped, that people have a right to make a choice in the foods they eat and that we start a constructive dialogue.’’
Schmidt, who says he has lost more than 30 pounds since his hunger strike began, had been drinking one glass of raw milk a day in addition to water, but for the past 10 days has stuck to water.
Only farmers taking milk from their own cows are allowed to drink it unpasteurized. Canadian law requires milk sold to others to be pasteurized, quickly heated to at least 63C, to kill off pathogens.
Schmidt has argued that he is not selling raw milk but giving it to the cows’ owners, people in his co-operative who buy shares in the herd.
Canada is “the only G8 country which does not allow the sale or distribution of raw milk,’’ said Schmidt, who has a master’s degree in agriculture.
Instead of engaging in constructive dialogue with him and others in the co-op, Schmidt said, the government has done nothing but stonewall and have his farm raided “by armed officers. My family has been terrorized and I have been dragged through the courts.’’
Meanwhile, he says, there’s a growing underground market for raw milk that is potentially more dangerous because it’s unregulated.