The Quiet Dictatorship Strikes Again

Canada has been referred to as a quiet dictatorship, a country that denies your rights in a civil way. If you defy the state by exercising your freedoms, the government will imprison you but will do so in a kindly manner. A great example of the lack of freedom in Canada and the suffocating control that the corporate state has over the individual is a recent court decision in Ontario affecting 143 families whose members want to consume raw milk and raw milk products.

On January 5 Justice P.W. Sutherland of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted a permanent injunction to Gavin Dowing (referred to as “the Director”–the opinion never explains what he is the director of?) and the Regional Municipality of York, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the Regional Municipality of Peel that prevents 143 individuals and their families that are members of the Our Farm Our Food Cooperative (OFOF) from being able to consume raw milk produced by a herd of dairy cows in which OFOF has 100% ownership–the co-op members have invested $2,000 each to join.

OFOF purchased the cows from the Agri-Cultural Renewal Cooperative (ARC) and hired ARC to care for the cows and manage the dairy operations. In 2010 ARC purchased Glencolton Farm in its entirety, owning all the land, buildings, equipment and animals. Former owner Michael Schmidt stills works on the farm but owns nothing of it. Schmidt, his wife Elisa Vander hout and several officers and directors of ARC were defendants in the case as was ARC itself.

The injunction prevents, among other things, defendants and anyone with knowledge of the judge’s order “from operating a plant without a license” and “from selling, offering for sale, delivering or distributing milk or cream or products processed or derived from milk that has not been pasteurized or sterilized in a plant that is not licensed under the Milk Act…” In other words, those individuals who paid $2,000 so that they and their families could obtain raw milk are out of luck.

In his opinion, Judge Sutherland made the ominous statement that “[a] court should not grant such an order unless the court is prepared if necessary to commit a violator of the order into prison.” Schmidt has already been sentenced to 60 days in jail for obstructing a peace officer trying to leave Glencolton Farm with dairy products and milking equipment.

The most remarkable part of Judge Sutherland’s opinion is that it contains a complete chronology of the 24-year battle Schmidt has been through with the government in trying to legalize raw milk distribution in Ontario and other places in Canada. Time and again Schmidt has tried to adjust the raw milk operation on his farm to comply with a prior court ruling only for a court to rule in the next proceeding that there is no difference between public and private distribution of raw milk and that only those living on a farm [the family farm exemption] can legally obtain raw milk–all other milk must be pasteurized and under state control.

In his opinion, the Judge rejected defendants’ contention that the private nature of the ARC-OFOF operation made it not subject to Ontario milk laws noting that “[t]his court has resisted schemes that purport to create ‘private’ enclaves immune to the reach of public health legislation.”

It is uncertain at this time whether Schmidt will continue his fight to legalize raw milk in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada. If this is it, his courage and persistence have left a lasting legacy with the tremendous increase in the demand for and supply of raw milk throughout Canada. The many Canadian raw milk producers that have started up in recent years would rather stay underground than work for legalization like Schmidt did, seeing the courts repeatedly favor the dairy industry monopoly over freedom of choice and private property rights. They want to stay as far away as possible from the Canadian system of fascist governance.

UPDATE – The defendants filed an appeal of Justice Sutherland’s opinion in February 2018.

Top graphic snipped from “Food Rights” video, published 19 Oct. 2015 on YouTube at

For information on donating to the Canada effort, visit

Ontario court sign graphic snipped from CTV Barrie video published 29 May 2017 for “Injunction Could Decide Future of Unpasteurized Milk” at

Michael Schmidt on Glencolton Farm graphic snipped from “Food Rights” video, published 19 Oct. 2015 on YouTube at

A Wishlist of Just Laws for Those Who Feed Our Families

At the end of 2017 there were several enforcement actions and investigations underway against raw milk distributors. In a Kansas City district court the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was seeking an order allowing it to seize and destroy $70,000 of camel milk and camel milk products, most of it unpasteurized. Government agencies in four different states were investigating a New Jersey food buyers club in connection with an illness attributed to raw milk consumption. In a separate investigation the New Jersey Department of Health sent cease and desist letters to a number of private residences in that state that were allegedly serving as dropsites for the distribution of raw milk and other nutrient-dense foods.

Out of the three cases, the only illness involved was traced to the administration of a brucellosis vaccine to a cow that resulted in active brucella showing up in the raw milk. In the FDA and New Jersey Department of Health investigations there were no allegations of adulterated raw dairy or other foods being distributed. Still, distributors in all three cases could be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties for distributing food their customers believed best for their health and well-being. As the new year gets underway what laws could be passed to better protect producers and distributors of nutrient-dense foods and improve the chances of those individuals getting justice if the government brings a formal administrative or judicial action against them. Here are some suggestions towards making this happen.

    Jury Nullification
    Jury nullification is the legal concept where the jury has the right to acquit the defendant even if the law points toward guilt if the jury believes that it would be unjust to apply the law given the facts of the case. Jury nullification can take place in either criminal or civil trials. The Alvin Schlangen and Vernon Hershberger trials, respectively in Wisconsin and Minnesota, were jury nullification cases where the juries refused to convict the two for violations of the food and dairy laws even though under the letter of the law either could have been found guilty.

    The U.S Supreme Court has recognized the right of a jury to acquit a defendant when it believes that the application of the law to the facts of the case would be unjust.1 The trouble with jury nullification at the federal level and in nearly all states is that even though the jury has the right to judge the law as well as the facts in a case, judges and defense attorneys are prohibited from informing juries that this right exists. States need to pass laws lifting this prohibition.

    In 2012 the New Hampshire legislature passed a law stating, “In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defendant to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to those facts.” In a 2014 case, State v. Paul2 the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that this law did not impose any obligation on the court to “instruct the jury as to jury nullification.”2,3

      In response to the supreme court’s ruling a bill (HB 133) was introduced in the 2017 New Hampshire legislative session that read: In all criminal proceedings the court shall inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy. At the request of the defendant or the defendant’s attorney, the court shall instruct the jury as follows: “If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether the state has proved any one or more of the elements of the crime charged, you must find the defendant not guilty. However if you find that the state has proved all the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty. Even if you find that the state has proved all of the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find that based upon the facts of this case a guilty verdict will yield an unjust result, and you may find the defendant not guilty.”

    The 2017 New Hampshire bill is the type of legislation that needs to pass to strengthen the juror’s right of nullification. At a minimum it makes no sense that a defense attorney cannot even inform the jury of this right. Jurors should not have to work in the blind as to their nullifying rights as they did in the Hershberger and Schlangen cases where the law prohibited the judge and the defense attorneys from telling the jury directly about jury nullification. Jury nullification is a bedrock of our justice system; jurors should be educated about it.

    Jury Trials in Food Condemnation Cases
    Government agencies generally have to petition courts to destroy food the agencies have seized. The government usually does this on the grounds of protecting the public health but in nearly all cases there is no evidence that the food from the same production batch under seizure has made anyone sick. For some producers or distributors a single court order to destroy food can put them out of business. In cases like the Kansas raw camel milk seizure the government hasn’t even alleged that the milk is adulterated or a threat to human health.

    In one Missouri case, a court ordered the destruction of over 30,000 pounds of raw cheese even though the cheese manufacturer, Morningland Dairy, had never been accused of making anyone sick in 30 years of doing business and neither FDA nor the Missouri Milk Board had tested any of the cheese subject to the destruction order. FDA had taken 100 environmental swabs at the facility all of which were negative for the pathogen. Judges who rule against destroying food are in a no-win situation even if the facts of the case favor the food producer or distributor; they are under tremendous pressure to err on the side of protecting the public health even if there is no real health threat at all. A jury would better take into consideration the evidence on the side of producers and distributors in these cases.

    Jury Trial for Cases Where the Government Seeks a Permanent Injunction Against Food Producers and Distributors
    An injunction is a court order prohibiting someone from doing some specified act or commanding someone to undo some wrong or injury. A permanent injunction is a final court order that is permanently in effect unless the court lifts the order. Those who violate the injunction can face contempt charges with the possibility of fines and/or jail time.

    In Michigan the past couple of years the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has brought court actions for injunction against two different raw milk producers, Hill High Dairy and Dairy Delight Cow Boarding, for matters that should not have been any of MDARD’s business. In the Hill High Dairy case the department tried to stop individuals leasing cows from having the leaseholders hire someone to process their own raw milk into other dairy products; in the Dairy Delight case the department tried to stop those in a herdshare program from selling, among other foods, oatmeal cookies and apple muffins to other shareholders without proper labeling. Both cases involved private, closed-loop transactions far outside the stream of public commerce; in the Hill High Dairy case, MDARD not only obtained an injunction against the dairy prohibiting it from violating state food and dairy laws but brought contempt charges against the dairy when its leaseholders continued to have their raw milk processed into other dairy products. Thankfully, the judge hearing the case brought some common sense to the matter when he ruled the dairy was not in contempt.

    Agencies like MDARD would be less likely to bring actions for an injunction and contempt suits for violation of an injunction in these type of cases if they knew that food producers and distributors would be entitled to a trial by a jury of their peers.

    Right to Jury Trial for Appeals of Administrative Rulings
    Government agencies seeking to punish food producers with penalties such as license revocation or fines can resort to administrative hearings where the odds of success are not as great for producers as they would be in a judicial court. Several raw milk producers have found out firsthand that administrative hearings are often one-sided proceedings in which those the agency is trying to punish are afforded little due process.

    One Ohio farmer had his dairy license revoked at an administrative hearing for taking a $2.00 donation for a gallon of raw milk he gave to an undercover officer from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Raw dairy producers have been through administrative hearings where, even if the person presiding over the hearing ruled against the government agency, the agency had the power legally to ignore the ruling and issue the order it wanted to anyway.

    Parties can appeal the ruling to a judicial trial court; the courts sits as an appellate court for the appeal but is limited to reviewing just the record from the administrative proceeding. The system needs to change so that the trial court would sit as a trial court trying the matter from the beginning as if it had never been heard in the administrative proceeding (the legal term is de novo trial) to give the individual the agency seeks to punish a fresh start in a less biased proceeding. To further discourage government harassment there should be a right to a jury trial in the appeal of an administrative proceeding to a judicial court.

Even if a state currently has a favorable regulatory climate for the production and distribution of nutrient-dense food, it is still the right move to pass the laws suggested above in case the enforcement policy of the agencies ever change.

Producers and distributors of raw milk and other nutritious foods who take the risks they do to make those foods available deserve to get justice and not just law if a court action is brought against them. Greater protection is needed for those who provide for our sustenance.

[1] Spanf v. United States 156 U.S. 51 (1895)
[2] State v. Paul 167 N.H. 39,42
[3] The jury instruction the trial court judge gave in the Paul case was: “You should follow the law as I explain it regardless of any opinion you may have as to what the law ought to be. If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether the State has proved any one or more of the elements of the crime charged, you must find the defendant not guilty. However, if you find that the state has proved all elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty.” Paul, p. 41.