|Unrepentant Canadian criminal, Michael Schmidt, with his contraband -- milk.|
Since 1994, Canadian authorities have been harassing Michael Schmidt, a diary farmer, over his illegal cow-milking operation. Michael was charged and found guilty of selling raw dairy milk in 1994, and was sentenced to two years probation. He was forced to sell hundreds of acres of land in order to pay legal fees.
Selling raw milk in Canada is a very serious crime. Canadian officials felt that it was so serious that instead of prosecuting minor felons like murderers and rapists, they carried out a 25-man armed raid on Schmidt's farm in November 2006. In case you're wondering; the assault rifles were completely necessary, as dairy farmers present a underestimated threat, despite their carefully construed mild-mannered reputation. All of Michael's milking paraphernalia and cheese-making equipment was seized as hard evidence of his criminal activities. Michael began a hunger strike, which he ended 28 days later, in a rally outside the Ontario Legislature, where he milked a cow.
In October 2008, Michael was found guilty of breach of a court order, as he continued to distribute organic, raw milk. He told the judge to "impose the highest penalty you can find". In January 2009, a date was finally set for the trial which would decide Michael's guilt or innocence regarding charges of selling raw milk. On January 21st, 2010; Michael won-back his legal right to distribute raw milk.
It is currently legal to drink raw milk in Canada, but it is illegal to sell it. Raw milk is legal in roughly half of America, and throughout the United Kingdom. Michael, a German immigrant living in Canada, wisely believes that laws which are supposedly intended to protect people from themselves are trumping individual rights.
“We want to be responsible for our food. Standing up for basic rights is a moral obligation, and that's what we did. I could not have done this alone.”
— Michael Schmidt
Michael managed to find a loophole in Canadian law. Instead of selling raw milk, he sold parts of cows, or "cow shares" to individuals, who would then ask for the milk from their cows. He currently keeps 150 cows on his land, and has long been hailed as a hero of the raw milk movement.
It is known that raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria, but that is only likely in unhygienic conditions, like those that are found at most factory farms. The real issue that surrounds raw milk, is whether individuals are given the right to make their own health choices. The Canadian government, and some American States have been very aggressive against raw milk, to the point of outright banning its sale; yet substances which are known to be much more harmful are still sold. Alcohol is, without doubt, a dangerous substance. It can cause liver failure, kidney failure, reduced intellect, addiction, and death (including indirect deaths through driving accidents, etc). However, it is not banned, because the public demanded the right to make informed decisions with regard to alcohol. Unlike the producers of organic raw milk, the industries behind alcohol, high fructose corn syrup, and aluminum have plenty of lobbying power.