CCF client, Michael Schmidt, grew up in rural Germany where the sale of unpasteurized milk is legal. He obtained a masters degree in agriculture in 1978, writing his thesis on bio-dynamic farming—an early form of modern organic agriculture. He developed the “cow-share” concept in Germany for the purpose of reconnecting consumers and producers to ensure a safe milk supply.
After farming for 10 years in Canada, he received “an ever-growing call by those with food allergies, especially those with lactose intolerance who apparently were unable to drink or consume pasteurized milk.” He was also approached by people who had begun to “question the food safety of mainstream large scale food production. Young parents especially with great concerns for the well being of their children kept knocking on [his] door and requested raw milk.”
The sale, distribution, and delivery of unpasteurized milk is illegal in Ontario, but it is not illegal for individuals to consume unpasteurized milk if they can acquire it.
To that end, Michael revived his concept of a cow-share program at his Canadian farm. The purpose was to give individuals who purchase a share in the dairy herd legal access to unpasteurized milk. Michael’s wish was to bring cow-share members into compliance with the law, not to evade the law.
But unknown to Michael, secret agents from the government had began investigating him. And on November 21, 2006, inspectors from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Public Health executed a search warrant on Michael’s farm. Michael was charged with various offences related to the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk.
Michael was tried before Justice of the Peace Kowarsky in the Ontario Court of Justice in 2009 on 19 charges involving:
- selling, offering for sale, distributing or delivering unpasteurized milk and cheese contrary to the Health Protection and Promotion Act;
- operating a “plant” without a licence contrary to the Milk Act;
- being a “distributor” of milk without a licence contrary to the Milk Act; and
- disobeying a health inspector’s written order.
Justice of the Peace Kowarsky acquitted the appellant on all charges. But the government appealed the acquittals.
The appeal was heard in 2011 by Justice Tetley of the Ontario Court of Justice and resulted in 13 convictions. Michael was sentenced to pay fines totaling $9,150 and one year of probation.
As Michael’s lawyers, the CCF will be making two major arguments on his behalf. First, on a proper interpretation of the current laws, cow-shares are not illegal in Ontario. Second, the Constitution of Canada protects the right of consumers’ to take responsibility for their own health.
Please click HERE to donate to the CCF today and help us defend Michael Schmidt so that Ontarians can have the freedom to acquire and consume unpasteurized milk.