Newmarket, ON: Dairy farmer Michael Schmidt suffered a setback in his campaign to legalize raw milk today when the decision of Justice Peter Tetley of the Ontario Court of Justice reversed a lower court decision and found Schmidt guilty on 15 of the 19 charges.
Schmidt had been acquitted of all charges by Justice of the Peace Paul Kowarsky in January, 2010. The Ontario government and the Grey Bruce Health Unit appealed that decision. Justice Tetley allowed their appeal on some, but not all charges.
All claims that the legislation violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were dismissed.
The text of the decision has been posted on the website of the Canadian Constitution Foundation here.
Schmidt said: “This is just a temporary setback. We will continue to fight, both through the courts and through the legislature, for the rights of individuals to decide what they put into their bodies. The public supports us on this issue.”
An Ipsos Reid poll taken shortly after Schmidt’s 2010 acquittal showed that 70 percent of the Ontarians polled believed it should be legal to purchase raw milk.
Schmidt’s lawyer, Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, said: “We are still reviewing the decision in detail. It’s 77 pages long. However, we have already notified the Ontario government that we will likely be seeking leave to appeal. We have asked for their promise not to raid any farms so long as this case is wending its way through higher courts. The damage done to farmers and to cowshare members could be irreparable if they ignore this request.”
In November, 2006 Schmidt’s farm was raided by 24 armed officers from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Provincial Police.
A survey of 2,185 Ontario dairy farmers in 2009 found that 88.7 percent of respondents affirmed that they or members of their families consumed raw milk from their own farms.
Raw milk can be sold legally in 26 states of the United States and most European countries. It is even sold in vending machines in France, Italy, Switzerland and Slovenia.
Said Selick: “We had evidence available from witnesses who had recovered from very serious health problems and who attributed their recoveries to raw milk. The government fought to prevent this evidence from being heard by the court, then argued that there was no evidence of health benefits to consuming raw milk. Meanwhile, we know that pasteurized milk can also be unsafe.”
Two scientific papers published after Schmidt’s trial in 2009 showed that the shiga toxins produced by the bacterium e-coli O157:H7 are not inactivated by pasteurization even though the bacteria themselves may be killed. The studies followed an incident in North Cumbria, England in which 114 people became ill and 28 required hospitalization after consuming pasteurized milk.1
The Canadian Constitution Foundation is an independent, non-profit registered charitable organization whose mission is to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through education, communication and litigation.