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