A hunger-striking Ontario farmer came to Toronto Wednesday to further his protest against rules that prohibit the sale of unpasteurized milk.
Michael Schmidt was expected to hold a news conference at a Toronto restaurant owned by celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy. American raw milk advocate Sally Fallon and Ontario Landowners Association President Randy Hillier were also slated to attend.
The conference comes a day after Schmidt was confronted by police and public heath authorities north of Toronto on a bus where he sells raw milk -- a practice banned in Ontario since the 1930s.
Authorities surrounded the bus but Schmidt refused to let them in.
"They kind of stood around the whole bus for probably over an hour," Schmidt told The Canadian Press. "Finally, they left."
The incident came one week after Schmidt's farm near Durham, Ont., about 45 kilometres south of Owen Sound, was raided by Ministry of Natural Resources inspectors.
Since the raid, Schmidt, 52, has not eaten any food, surviving only on water and raw milk.
He said he will continue the strike until his equipment, confiscated in the raid, is returned along with a promise that he'll be left alone.
"This is a battle out of principle," said Schmidt. "This is a battle that people gain respect again for the farmer."
"When there is a law which is unjust and which claims that the milk is OK as long as the farmer drinks it, but the milk is dangerous as soon as it crosses the road, that law doesn't make sense."
Schmidt blamed "ego-tripping bureaucrats" for the raid last week that he considers an excessive show of force.
Canadian health authorities say unpasteurized milk can contain potentially lethal E. coli, salmonella and other dangerous organisms. Federal law restricts the sale or free distribution of such milk in Canada and Ontario's Milk Act also has a similar clause.
Raw milk advocates say the milk offers health benefits and is safe as long as it is carefully handled by farmers.
Following a conviction in 1994, Schmidt used a loophole in the Milk Act that allows farmers to drink raw milk from their own cows.
He signed up 150 cow-shareholders with each buying a share of a cow for $300. Participants then pay $2 a litre for the milk that their animal produces.
Members include Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara's wife, reported CP.
On Wednesday, Sorbara said the province should look at legalizing the sale of raw milk -- a practice safely done in parts of the U.S. and Europe.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said he won't do it, calling the matter an issue of public health.
Schmidt supplies weekly produce, meat, bread and raw milk to families in the Walkerton region and in Toronto via the joint-ownership program.
Where do I even begin with this story?
Raw milk is far superior to the crap you buy in the store. There is no comparison between the taste and nutrient content. The more milk is processed, the less nutrients it has in it. That the farmer and his family can safely consume raw milk under the law ought to give everyone pause: if they can drink it, why can't it be supplied to the public? If there is genuine concern about problems as e. coli, in the event of an outbreak the best solution would be to fine or jail the offending farmer.
The heart of the debate is not about the safety of milk, however. It is about market control. The Milk Board is currently so heavily regulated that, were I rich and wanting to open my own dairy farm, there is no conceivable way I could make a profit. I would have to buy one of the already existing big dairy farms, like Beatrice or Neilson.
If an individual farmer were allowed to sell his milk without the excessive regulation and control of the Milk Board, the industry would be turned on its head. Big companies would now have to worry about competition and loss of revenue... and we can't have that, can we?