The Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Courts of Appeal – the Ontario Court of Appeal – today will hear oral arguments to decide if barriers to the sale and distribution of raw milk infringe upon any right that might exist to drink the unpasteurized beverage.
Not surprisingly, the case involving those issues is being brought by activist farmer Michael Schmidt, the defendant in 2011 who was convicted in a provincial court on 13 violations of both the Milk Act and the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Schmidt has been in and out of many an Ontario court since he was first charged with the illegal sale and distribution of raw milk. He opted to appeal the 2011 convictions to the province’s highest court rather than pay fines totaling $9,150. His attorneys say Schmidt’s “long-standing efforts to make unpasteurized milk available to non-farmers have been an important and fundamental life choice, having demonstrably profound psychological, economic, social and ethical consequences for him.”
Bans on the sale and distribution of raw milk, Schmidt’s legal defense will argue, stand in violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada’s charter includes the right of individuals to make decisions about their own bodies and their own health.
Schmidt’s side will claim that by not permitting so-called cow share programs, his rights under the charter are violated. Cow share arrangements, where a group of people fund the ownership of an animal in exchange for raw milk, is known in Canada as agistment.
However, cow shares are seen as little more than a scheme to get around the law in Canada. Government attorneys note that Schmidt is the only party holding legal title to the cows, and that unpasteurized milk remains a significant public health risk.© Food Safety News