Freedom Milk

Image: Food and Freedom Rally in D.C., 5/16/2011 (James Buck/The Washington Post)

Food is never really just about food. The need to sustain our bodies and the enjoyment that many of us find in sharing a good meal with loved ones, have never been so loaded with significance as they are nowadays. Simply put, how we go about fueling and refueling our personal machine daily, whether compelled by necessity or pleasure (or both), speaks tons about our vision of the world and about our values. And this is true whether we’re aware of it or not.

Take milk, for instance. The most basic, simple, primal even, food made available to us by Nature. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or are lucky enough to consume milk straight from your own cow or your neighbor’s, you’ve undoubtedly been confronted over the past few years with various concerns and questions about what to pick from the dairy refrigerated aisle, and probably have done your research too. Organic or not? Cow or goat? Does local matter? And the most contentious one of all: raw or pasteurized?

Milk (as a poster child for all foods, really) has become altogether an environmental issue, a private health issue, a public health issue even, not to forget an economic and a social justice issue.

Last but not least, it has become a political issue in America (and elsewhere, if the “criminal” sales of raw milk behind closed doors in Canada are any indication). One that involves governmental control v. citizens’ freedom to choose. In that respect, milk has become a tangible, straightforward militant vehicle to confront the most troubling trend raised ten years ago by the U.S. Patriot Act and the establishment of Homeland Security: the unmistakable encroaching by the Federal government on civil liberties.

To be sure, milk has been the topic of many conversations in Washington, DC, over the past week. Yesterday, passers-by on the Hill were treated to the sight of a cow grazing in Upper Senate Park, across the street from the Senate. They watched it being milked by hand on site, and got to enjoy a sample of the warm liquid right there and then, if they were so willing. “Those who wrote the Constitution drank raw milk,” read a sign.

Charming as it may have been, the unusual, bucolic scene was a protest organized by the Grassfed on the Hill Buying Club in the name of a serious cause: the perceived persecution of Daniel Allgyer, a Pennsylvania Amish dairy farmer, at the hands of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After 18 months of harassment, including a sting operation, the agency recently filed a civil suit against him for introducing into interstate commerce raw milk intended for human consumption, and gave him notice of a pending request for permanent injunction. It should be noted that no health incident was ever identified in connection with Rainbow Acres Farm’s raw milk. The farmer’s crime was to sell milk to residents of Maryland, Virginia and D.C.: transporting uncured milk across state lines is illegal, according to the Justice Department. In response, Grassfed on the Hill has sued the FDA, challenging the agency’s jurisdiction on ALL private clubs providing raw dairy.

“Despite the fact that there is no actual proof that anyone has ever been injured by milk from Dan’s cows, he is being treated as if he were a drug lord by our federal government,” said Jonathan Emord, a D.C.-based lawyer and author of “The Rise of Tyranny” and “Global Censorship of Health Information.” “He is being treated as if what he sells is contraband that will cause injury to anyone who gets near the substance. And this is fresh milk.”

Jonathan Emord was among several speakers invited to support the Food and Farm Freedom Rally. Other speakers included Sally Fallon Morell of Weston A. Price Foundation, author David Gumpert, and Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy.

The event was given national momentum by the introduction, last week in Congress, of a bill (H.R.1830) designed to “allow the shipment and distribution of unpasteurized milk and milk products for human consumption across state lines.”

“This legislation removes an unconstitutional restraint on farmers who wish to sell or otherwise distribute, and people who wish to consume, unpasteurized milk and milk products,” said its author Ron Paul (R-TX) when introducing the bill (read his whole, short speech here).

Freedom is what this bill is strictly about. Relevant and valuable as it may be, the health debate over the risks and the benefits of raw milk is a whole different conversation altogether, that only blurs the main issue at stake here: retaining one’s sovereignty over the food one chooses to consume (including “what” and “from where”), free of government control.

The impact of such a legislation would be anything but anecdotal. It is estimated that raw milk is a 10-million-consumer market in the United States. Legal in 10 states, sales of raw milk are illegal in 11 states (including Maryland and Virginia) and the District of Columbia, while remaining states have varying restrictions on purchase or consumption. And just to clarify, the hardship endured by Dan Allgyer is hardly an isolated incident.

“I urge my colleagues to join me in promoting individual rights, the original intent of the Constitution, and federalism,” Ron Paul concluded. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It will need all the public support it can get to not be stalled–petition, anyone?

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Sarah M.
Sarah M.4 years ago

I had no idea raw milk was illegal in some states...that is so absolutely ridiculous! I can make a quick trip to the store to buy all the raw organic milk I please. I've tried it, and raw butter too, yum!

Alicia N.
Alicia N.4 years ago

thanks for your article but, no cow milk for me, soy or rice milk taste better and nobody cries!

Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

John A.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you

Braydon W.
Braydon W.4 years ago

milk consist of many vitamins

Rachel H.
Rachel H.4 years ago

Thank you, Nicole.

James, have you ever been to a diary farm that provides raw milk? Have you ever been to a daily farm that doesn't? If no, how would you know?
Even without all of that, consider this: 65 years ago (prior to pasteurization being a law in the US), people drank raw milk every day. They didn't have the allergies that we suffer from now. They didn't have to deal with "superbugs" that are resistant to heat and antibacterials that we have now. Could that be because we've sterilized everything so much that we are no longer subject to regular disease, but "supersize" diseases? We need to get back to introducing the good bugs into our systems so that we can fight off these things. Raw milk, from cows that have been fed species appropriate food and not given high doses of antibacterials, has lots of good bugs that actually help us fight off the bad bugs. I prefer to be healthy enough to be able to fight off viruses and bad bacteria than to just hide and avoid it all. I want to have that choice.

Nicole D.
Nicole D.4 years ago

James, can you please explain how raw milk gives people TB? It is my understanding that Turberculosis primarily infects people through inhalation of the bacteria. Most cows raised properly for raw milk production have a very low incidence of harmful bacteria and farmers test their milk and cows regularly for illness and bacterial infection.

Pasturization of milk only became an issue when factory farms stopped caring about the health of their cows and allowed them and their milk to become infected as well as allowing contamination with feces and puss.

James R. Stewart Jr.

Good Grief ! Raw milk is Illegal, because YOU and I can get
Tuberculosis from Raw Milk. It's A Good Law, and just because TB is not an issue anymore, doesn't mean that we
can forget about it. The only way we can Keep TB Away Forever Is To Never Allow Raw Milk Anymore. Period.

Shari G.
Shari G.4 years ago

i agree with other comments on how the government allows for all sorts of harmful substances to be sprayed on foods and yet something as harmless as raw milk is declared illegal...its a joke, really. people should have the choice to drink/eat whatever they want. there are a lot more dangerous/unhealthy foods or food additives that the government should be putting their focus on, instead of something so harmless as raw milk.
HOWEVER i myself am not a huge milk drinker (it makes be bloated!), the only dairy i eat is cheese occasionally...but maybe raw milk would be better...who knows!!

Nicole D.
Nicole D.4 years ago

In response to the question posed by Vasu M.
"Nicole D. concludes:

"And while I'm not a proponant of milk I don't think this is the right place to voice your opinions against it. This is a story about people's right to choose what they eat. Whether you agree with it or not."

Does this mean cannibalism is okay?"

I think you're taking this WAY WAY WAY out of context. I do think a government of humans for humans should dictate that one human cannot kill another human (I am against capital punishment if you'd like to stretch the conversation in that direction). I do not think our government should limit what we put into our mouths. You can eat plastic and and elephant dung for all I care and the government has no business to tell you you can't. Heck, eat horses and squirrels if that suites you too. Now it gets shady in the area of endangered animals. I think for the sake of keeping biodiversity the government needs to control the killing and eating an endangered species (i.e. not allow it) though honestly that's off topic too.

My original statement comes down to this: If people want to drink milk, be it pasturized or unpasturized, cow, goat, elephant, or human, that's they're choice. The government can regulate it but they shouldn't ban it all together.
And I support your right to try to convince them not to drink milk at all.