Tuesday 4 February 2014

Ontario Farms Under Attack

Since I began writing about Frank Meyers’ ongoing battle with the Canadian military to save his farm from armed invasion and seizure by the government, and in interacting with supporters of the 85-year-old Ontario farmer, issues of food and farm freedom have come onto my radar and interested me in a way they hadn’t before.

Ontario raw milk crusader Michael Schmidt
My interest in the Frank Meyers case was mostly due to what I see as an outright assault by the government on the right of all Canadians to own property – property of any sort; not just farms, homes or land. In interacting with Frank’s supporters I learned that many were drawn to support Frank’s cause due to an affinity for family-run farms, concerns about food security, genetically modified organisms and the like.

As a result, I have recently become acquainted with the cases of two other Ontario farmers who have come under assault by the state for engaging in peaceful and voluntary farming practices deemed inappropriate by legislators and bureaucrats.

Michael Schmidt, a Durham Ontario dairy farmer, has been providing families with raw milk since 1991. Schmidt has been at the forefront of the raw milk crusade in Canada, and has been at war with the Ontario government for many years. His cow share co-op provides fresh, raw milk to 150 families (over 600 people) in Ontario.

Despite the fact that his cow share scheme does not violate Ontario’s current raw milk laws, as co-op members own a portion of his cows and are not buying the milk from Schmidt, and members have not reported a single case of illness from the milk, his farm has been raided multiple times by government agencies, equipment stolen and product destroyed.

Schmidt has been convicted and fined on raw milk offences and seen those convictions overturned, only to have courts reverse the decision once more. Tomorrow, February 5, 2014, Michael Schmidt, represented by the Canadian Constitution Foundation, will appear before the Court of Appeal of Ontario in a final appeal of his convictions.

Montana Jones says a tearful goodbye to one of her sheep as
armed police look on.
Photo credit - ShropshireSheep.org

Sadly, Michael Schmidt is not the only Ontario farmer to be subjected to farm raids and property theft and destruction by government agencies. Shepherdess Montana Jones, who raised rare Shropshire sheep, began her battle with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) after a sheep she sold in 2007 to a farm in Alberta, tested positive for scrapie.

Scrapie is a disease that affects sheep, but is not transmittable to humans. In 2011, the CFIA ordered a quarantine of Jones’ sheep and tested them for scrapie. Despite the fact that not one of Jones' sheep tested positive for scrapie, the CFIA, citing that the test is only 88% accurate, announced that it would proceed with the euthanasia of the entire flock.

It is alleged, at this point, that Jones, in conspiracy with raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt, had the flock removed from her farm, in order to evade capture and euthanasia of the sheep by the CFIA. The sheep were later discovered on a farm south of Owen Sound Ontario and subsequently euthanized.

I cannot claim to be knowledgeable about the health implications of drinking raw milk, or the genetics of Shropshire sheep, so I will leave those issues to more qualified parties. What I do see in these cases, are individuals who peacefully and voluntarily interacted with their customers to provide a product or service. As a result of their peaceful and consensual activity, they were subjected to threats, and ultimately, raids on their property by agents of the government.

If every man has a right to life, and to not have that right infringed upon by others, then by extension, does he not have the right to sustain his life (i.e. feed himself) according to his own will? Even if, as the government claims, raw milk is dangerous to the health of those who consume it, does not a right to one’s own life, like any right, also imply the ability to dispose of that right in any manner one sees fit?

1 comment: