Ryan Conroy: B.C.’s food freedom movement getting a raw deal

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A few years ago, I decided to make an effort to get healthier and more ethically-produced milk delivered to my home. Although I tried to buy organic, I frequently found myself grabbing a four-litre of conventional milk to try to meet a budget, and I questioned the quality of the organic milk I was getting at the supermarket, not to mention the price. With really only one option locally for organic home milk delivery, I decided to search the Internet before I took the plunge.

This led me to Home on the Range, a burgeoning raw milk dairy herd share. When I first contacted them they were just getting started, and Gordon Watson was making home deliveries out of the back of a van. They were operating at capacity and couldn’t take anyone new, but after a couple of weeks they contacted me, and they had a new depot setup for pickup near Main Street. At first it seemed a bit of a seedy operation: I let myself into a backyard near Main Street, and went into the garage, where there was a fridge full of milk with a self-serve billing department in the freezer. Then I sneaked away into the dark alley with my illegal dairy products.

Soon the depot moved to an expanded car park with better lighting and a lock on the fridge. Not long after that we began to pickup our milk from natural food retailers who were also members of our cooperative, and as I got to know my fellow herd share members, it became obvious they were not the fringe radicals often portrayed in the media. In fact, I quickly became aware that my herd share consisted of many of the owners of my favourite local food businesses, supplemented by regular families who just wanted higher quality milk or had health issues which prevented them from consuming pasteurized milk, such as lactose intolerance.

After that came a heavy-handed government raid, supported both by the B.C. Liberals and the NDP leadership. Our dividends were confiscated and those which were not destroyed were brought to a lab for testing—almost two weeks later and at room temperature in flagrant violation of transport and storage rules laid out in the B.C. Milk Industry Act. Soon after, former health critic (now leader) Adrian Dix wrote us a condescending and dismissive letter when one of our members in the Fraser Valley asked her MLA for assistance—essentially indicating that the NDP was not interested in changing its policies, and that the NDP like the Liberals puts its party policy before the interest of British Columbians.

Since that time we rebranded our share member dividends as “Cleopatra’s Enzymatic Bath Lotion” and have labelled all jars as “For Cosmetic Use Only”. Herd share members are advised that if they are caught consuming dividends, their membership will be revoked, and signs have been placed at all depots to drive home the point, but this has not stopped our persecution at the hands of an uncaring government enforcing the milk monopoly in the name of public health. At a recent court date, the health inspector from Fraser Health who supervised the raid on our little dairy admitted that not only is he not in any way qualified to be inspecting dairy operations, he has also never seen a single case of food-borne illness caused by raw milk in over 30 years as a health inspector in the Fraser Valley, where over 90 percent of dairy farmers drink their milk raw. By the same token, you could walk into Save-On-Foods, buy a package of factory farmed chicken, bring it to the till, and walk out the door eating it raw.

We don’t believe the government has the right to tell us what we put in (or on) our bodies. Both the B.C. Liberals and B.C. NDP do. There is only one political party in B.C. that supports the right of people to choose for themselves what they eat or feed their families, the Green Party of British Columbia.

The government has no place in the refrigerators of this province. Free the milk!

Comments (9) Add New Comment
Victoria Voter
Can you post that letter from Adrien Dix? People have been asking what the position of various BC political parties is on the raw milk issue -- this sounds like as close as it comes to Official NDP Policy.
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James G
I am happy that government takes the responsibility of guaranteeing food and water safety even though this may put a damper on making a profit off of food trends. I would wish they would do more on this file and start looking at the larger agribusinesses and address genetic modification. I'd also like them to hire and fully train more food inspectors as needed instead of setting policy on hearsay.

Poultry farmers and fish farmers sometimes have to take regulation seriously (H1N1, sea lice) and I see no reason to exempt dairying,regardless of size or intent. Again and again the Green Party program is given a free ride by the media. They portray themselves as out to defend the ordinary citizen and then run candidates who seem more interested in finding ways to profit from environmental awareness -- some honourably and some not. I am certain you among the honourable ones and believe in your raw milk cause but self-regulation hasn't worked out well for the consumer on any industry allowed it thus far.

Speaking of raw, even a chance to finally (!) get the raw sewage Victoria dumps into the Salish Sea and with an offer of participation from the tight fisted federal Tories is turned aside because some greenwashing businesses might have to pay higher taxes. Your party campaigned to the fiscal right of even the federal Tories in the Victoria byeelecton!

"When funding raised it's ugly head, you bravely turned your tail and fled! Brave Brave Brave Sir Greenparty!" (thanks to M. Python). Nonetheless, it takes guts to run for office so good luck to you and all candidates on May 14.

This may help those unsure about raw milk:
http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/consumers/ucm079516.htm
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Jan Steinman
As an avid Green Party member, I must in good conscience object to your characterization of the NDP's position on raw milk herd shares.

On November 23rd, 2011, at a food freedom rally on the steps of the legislature, Agriculture Critic Lana Popham spoke "on behalf of caucus" in favour of herd sharing as an "innovative and reasonable" way around the Federal prohibition against the distribution of raw milk. (http://www.ecoreality.org/wiki/Letter_in_support_of_herd_shares_from_Lan...)

With Popham on stage was Health Critic Mike Farnworth, along with two other NDP MLAs, Jenny Kwan and Nicholas Simons. Later that day, MLA Kwan tabled a petition in the Legislator supporting raw milk herd shares. (http://jenniferberube.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/whats-the-beef-with-raw-m...)

It may well be that Adrian Dix did nothing to support Alice Jongerden and Gordon Watson in their hour of need, several years ago. But you imply that the NDP still opposes raw milk herd shares.

As I said, I am a fervent Green Party supporter, having worked on Elizabeth's campaign and on Donald Galloway's campaign. So it pains me to see my party misrepresenting another party's position.
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RUK
I think very little of elected representatives, or those who would aspire to that power, encouraging the citizens to violate the spirit of a law.

If you don't like the law, change it. Due process of public discussion and readings in the commons. That's how it works.

When you pick and choose the laws to obey, you weaken all laws. That's fine in a normal citizen, I guess, but you think you are worthy of being in government.

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RAW! RAW! RAW!
RAW! RAW! RAW!
We want RAW!
RAW! RAW! RAW!
We want RAW!
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Raw Milk Consumer
James G., not to start a debate about the safety of raw milk, but besides being in bed with Big Dairy (and headed by many ex-employees of such), there are many reasons with the FDA and CDC reports are specious. For one thing, they NEVER distinguish between unhealthy, industrial, CAFO milk and real, healthy, safe raw milk from pastured, A2 cows which are cared for according to raw milk protocols.

There is a distinct difference between raw industrial milk intended for pasteurization (which INDEED can be dangerous as farmers/producers can introduce all types of contamination into it knowing that it will be pasteurized anyway, and fresh unpasteurized whole ("FUW") milk intended for direct human consumption.

Thinking about raw milk? See http://rawmilkconsumer.ca/information/food-safety/ for real information. Fresh, properly produced raw milk is VERY safe and VERY low risk.

"Using government figures for food-borne illness for the entire population, Dr. Beals has shown that you are about thirty-five thousand times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk."
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Geoffrey Fenton
Raw Milk - is baddd but then so is world socialism which is where we are headed under 'establishment'
governments. Raw milk this week,smarty meters next
week - & has Adrian Dix promised in writing, that
there will be no pipelines? No? Just remember he
is in favor of Fracking Pipelines and what it does
to ground water - Out of sight but then just try to drink it. Its as good for you as chlorine is!
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Ryan Conroy
Hi RUK. People are allowed to consume their own milk raw. We have formed a co-operative, and we buy into the price of the herd. We are not retailing the milk, but we get a weekly allotted share.

There is no law, they are only able to persecute us under the Canada Health Act, which was written by bureaucrats. The law was established under a BC Royal Commission which found that the government had to provide a way for people who wanted to be able to have raw milk to get it. The legislation in BC that provided for this was in the BC Milk Act, but sections were deleted by the BC NDP during Glen Clarke's years, possibly by Dix himself who knows, without debate in the legislature, and later the remainder pertaining to the licensing of raw milk dairies was deleted by the BC Liberals. We have gone outside of the retail system because the retail system has been rigged by successive corrupt BC Milk Board's monopoly.

As far as Lana Popham, I like Lana. She came out to our farm along with Jenny Kwan, and said that it was the way the a dairy farm should be. She said that at every other dairy farm she went to, the cows ran away from her. But at our farm they ran right up to her and nuzzled their noses into her. However, the BC NDP are as much the problem as the BC Liberals.

They can't do anything more than offer sympathy, and not even that near an election period. They were forbidden from commenting on the issue or coming near the recent raw milk symposium in Vancouver. Lana is great but the party is totally corrupt, and they don't offer us any more than lip service (from those four individuals) same as they are offering made-in-BC reviews to anti-pipeline people, and pretending they will stand up for wild salmon.
Really all their empty promises are is lies when it comes down to it.

If Lana was not controlled by her party, I wouldn't have any issue with her, but Adrian Dix has clearly indicated that the NDP has no willingness to help us.

As far as that letter Victoria Voter, I believe I can. I will be seeing someone who has a copy today, my old iMac died and my copy was on the hard drive.
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Ryan Conroy
Raw milk is legal in every other G8 nation other than Canada James G. In any event there are any number of far more risky food products consumed every day, sushi, raw oysters, undercooked meats, the list goes on and on. If it is believed by some authority to be hazardous, it should be labelled. People say I should just change the law, but the BC NDP Party and the BC Liberal Party refuse. Then I run for the Green Party and they say the Green Party is no different or not necessary.

As far as the Federal Green Party, which I am not actually even part of, and in fact I supported a candidate from another party in my riding in the last federal election, the reason they objected to the sewage plant was the massive cost of the project. We should get moving immediately on building smaller treatment plants and treat the sewage as soon as possible, that is disgusting.
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