Letter to Legislature

This letter was written by Jan Steinman, a BC dairy goat farmer. Jan was one of the people who coordinated the Victoria rally on November 23, 2011.

Dear Legislative Assembly Member Coell,

I am a constituent in your riding, and would like your support in a matter that impacts food sovereignty, support of local farming, reduced carbon emissions, and other desirable goals that your party supports.

Yesterday (23 November 2011), a group of about 100 supporters of food sovereignty demonstrated at the BC Legislature for the removal of the absolute prohibition of supply of raw milk. This included four MLAs (Mike Farnworth, Jenny Kwan, Lana Popham, and Nicholas Simons) who declared their support for this request.

Federal law prohibits the sale of raw milk, but allows a person who owns a dairy animal to consume their own milk. Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section Two, we have the “right of association,” or the right to do collectively what it is legal to do individually. Indeed, large corporations often cite this as justification for actions they perform as “persons,” such as lobbying government officials, holding copyright and other property rights, and exercising freedom of speech.

In response to the Federal prohibition, many people who desire raw milk, but who lack the facilities or finances to obtain and properly care for a dairy animal, have banded together in various collective ownership situations, believing their actions to be entirely within their rights and the spirit of Federal law. These collectives are typically small, utilizing organic and humane animal husbandry, and their co-owners have the opportunity to be intimately involved with the animals and to observe the cleanliness and sanitation of the processes involved.

But health authorities in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia have forcefully raided such collectives, none of which were even accused of causing even a single raw-milk based illness. Authorities not only seized and destroyed raw milk and raw milk products, but also seized dairy animals, equipment, computers, and bank records, causing extensive financial loss and mental anguish to the collective owners of these dairy animals, and some would argue, putting the health of these people at risk, in conflict with the mandate of public health authorities.

The BC Milk Industry Act once tacitly allowed for distribution of raw milk to collective owners, but it has been surreptitiously altered “at the request of the industry” (according to Hansard archives), to the point where the supply of raw milk via collective ownership is now effectively outlawed. This seems clearly to be totally unrelated to public health.

Yet, public health authorities continue to cite health issues in their indiscriminate raids. Over 80% of dairy farmers consume their own raw milk, and yet there are vanishingly few cases of raw-milk-related illness reported, especially compared to the illness caused by luncheon meat, seafood, and even fresh vegetables — not to mention tobacco and alcohol.

In a future with increasing pressure on natural resources, government should encourage people who wish to take control of their own food supply. Please support the legalization of the consumption of raw dairy products by the collective owners of dairy animals.
The Wisconsin agency responsible for food safety had been caught deliberately promoting raw milk sales with improper safety standards in an attempt to cause an outbreak of illness. — Ron Schmid
:::: Jan Steinman, EcoReality Co-op ::::

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