A July 4 Message About Rights: Its Easy to Talk About Freedom, Making Things Happen Is More Difficult

Why do I have this uneasy feeling of being a participant in “Survivor”, and that I’m about to be voted off the island?

Seriously, it’s curious how a discussion about raw milk research priorities turns into a rap about freedom and rights. I think everyone knows I view the raw milk “problem” as a rights issue. Indeed, the subtitle of my upcoming book (The Raw Milk Revolution) is “Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights.”

But there’s a dynamic that occurs among supporters of raw milk when the discussion begins to question certain long-held assumptions. They drop the subject of the original discussion (in this case, the real significance of the Pottenger data in supporting raw milk’s nutritional benefits, and exploring other more persuasive data), and they talk about “rights,” as in, “Screw this business about sacred cows, I’m not giving an inch on Pottenger and, well, uh, this isn’t about Pottenger anyway, this is about freedom and rights. So there!”

That’s what Hugh Betcha does, and that’s what milk farmer and Don Wittlinger and Dave Milano do.

Well, I’ll give it to your straight. That approach is the equivalent of regulators who, when confronted with the argument that there are a miniscule number of illnesses from raw milk in this country and there’s no real danger, respond by saying, “Okay, that may be so, but what about the children? Who is protecting them?”

In other words, both arguments are cop-outs. They’re an excuse to simply not talk. And that’s what we have, no communication. The regulators may have started it, and may be the most intransigent. Unfortunately, the regulators have the power, as well as the support of the judges and legislators. You guys can stomp away and say you’ll go out in a blaze of glory defending your rights, but know what? The regulators know it’s a bunch of hot air, all talk. (Ironically, Lykke seems to be a government official of some type, who could very easily be fired if her/his real identity were known. Believe me, they fire such people in a heartbeat for engaging in such discussion. Lykke takes a risk posting on this blog, a bigger risk than I and most others on this blog take in defending rights.)

I’ve raised all kinds of objections when dairy farmers have been set upon by regulators. I’ve even called for civil disobedience. Some of you may remember the case of Greg Niewendorp, the Michigan farmer (since moved to Virginia) who refused to have his cattle tested for bovin tuberculosis. He sought out others to do the same, but when push came to shove, no one was there. I appreciate that in a down economy, it’s tough for others to put themselves on the line. Heck, it’s tough for certain especially vociferous readers here to even use their real names to ring the freedom bell, so what chance is there that they’ll go out on a limb via civil disobedience or other forms of real-life support?

I’ve sat in on court hearings involving dairy farmers whose rights have been violated via entrapment and illegal search warrants, and I can tell you, most judges don’t care. They just don’t care. Our constitution is nearly meaningless to them. They support the regulators, come hell or high water.

Given those realities, we have to go around the regulators (and legislators and judges). Educate consumers about the benefits of raw milk, and let them drive the market ever higher. Encourage more dairy farmers to explore raw milk. (Sorry, milk farmer, I’m not telling all feedlot dairies to get into the raw milk business, just encouraging a few serious-minded ones to explore making the transition to pasture-based dairy. Maybe where you live, economics aren’t important, and you can afford to just go your merry way, but in most of the rest of the country, economies are terrible and dairy farmers in particular, are going out of business in growing numbers. Transitioning some conventional dairies into raw dairies is a workable approach, and one that drives TPTB crazy.)

Small research studies that reaffirm raw milk’s safety, nutritional benefits, and economic benefits are an important way to educate people, and go around the regulators. Unfortunately, the Pottenger data isn’t especially useful or compelling in educating the masses, as much as a few devotees may love it. Criticizing it need not be any more threatening than admitting that people do occasionally become ill from raw milk, just as they become ill from spinach, ground beef, and cookie dough. Guess I didn’t fully appreciate how difficult it is to let go of sacred cows.

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19 Comments on "A July 4 Message About Rights: Its Easy to Talk About Freedom, Making Things Happen Is More Difficult"

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July 4, 2009 2:52 am


I don’t worry about doing research that will convince people that raw milk can be safe or even beneficial.Everyone seems to be aware that conventionally produced food is going to kill you if not immediately then over a few decades.I think they are aware that preservatives are bad for their health and that processed food is lacking the vitamins we need to be healthy.This alone will drive people to try foods that are free of preservatives and fresh.

I do worry that even small scale farmers and the people who support them,believe that the state… Read more »

Steve Bemis
July 4, 2009 3:42 am

I have the feeling that this blog, and others like it, are harbingers of the future. The present is the problem. Whether it is a failed environmental response to pollution or a failed agricultural response to the pesky problem of feeding humanity – which are different manifestations of the same problem – the common denominator is a corporate system with its handmaiden regulators (largely owned and controlled by the corporate interests). So long as we have corporations with the "rights" of human individuals which control the government, we are locked in a system which is really,… Read more »

Dave Milano
July 4, 2009 4:55 am

It was certainly not my intention to jack up a spitting match. Please understand that my comments are intended to be about ideas and not about individuals.

The Complete Patient
July 4, 2009 5:19 am

I definitely understand that, and I apologize if I personalized my argument more than was appropriate. I, for one, very much value your ideas, as I think many others here do as well.


Mark McAfee
July 4, 2009 6:12 am

Hey Team Raw Milk,

I have come to realize that the blogosphere is really the B-S-osphere and is not really the realityosphere.

While all this talk is going on…. real work is being done and progress is being made. People are working very hard at farmers markets, meetings are being held and research is being funded at major universities….all about raw milk.

Economics will change these dynamics. Education will follow and true change will happen. All because the human spirit contains a gene that "wants us to live and thrive". Our current state of nutritional affairs is killing us.… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
July 4, 2009 7:02 am

Studies keep people asking questions. A good researcher will continuelly ask questions and seek out the answers. As a good researcher will also defend thier research.

People are waking up. Change is usually a slow process. When enough are ill, they will seek change. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. (Don’t recall who said that).

People did "illegal" things to help/free slaves, they did it under great risks long before the general population realized what was going on. People tend to be very passionate about thier… Read more »

Don Wittlinger
July 4, 2009 7:16 am

Fresno Dairy Can’t Escape "Milk Pool"
Hey Mark this article is a bit unclear for this reader on the east coast perhaps you could elaborate. It sounds like you OPDC are forced into a milk pricing system thus not a free market but actually subjected to price controls by others?

Mark McAfee
July 4, 2009 10:03 am


Let me explain the SB 362 and the CA Milk Pool issue.

Senator Dean Florez held investigatory hearings earlier this year after CA dairymen started committing suicide from sustained low milk pricing. During those hearings dairymen were invited to come and suggest ideas about how the CA dairy industry and or the Milk Pool could be changed or improved.

There were a broad range of recommendations. One of the recommendations was brought forth by Organic Pastures Dairy and yours truly. OPDC is forced to pay $20,000 per month into the CA Milk Pool even though we can… Read more »

Don Wittlinger
July 4, 2009 5:28 pm

Thank you Mark for clearly explaining all the details left unsaid in the article. It is indeed distressing to hear that this system is confiscating {stealing} money from OPDC a real dairy and your customers all the young Moms you so warmly talk about. I assume then they redistribute the ill gotten gain into the scheme called the milk pricing pool thus the CAFOs benefit from this extortion.
I will limit my comments to is utterly SHAMEFULL and OURAGEOUS!

Sylvia Gibson
July 4, 2009 8:20 pm


I was taught in school that America was a free market. If you are forced, that is not freedom.
How did America end up this way/


Sylvia Gibson
July 4, 2009 8:35 pm


Instead of cleaning up the processers and changing the feed and environment they place a "bandaid" on a major proplem. How is this suppposed to work?

Ken Conrad
July 5, 2009 1:54 am

Its more like opening a Pandoras box rather then a band aid treatment Silvia. Tactical approaches or measures of this nature used to manipulate the ecosystem is short sighted and will break down in the face of natures spontaneity.

The result of further studies (biased or not, pro or con) is irrelevant to the majority of those who consume raw milk daily around the world. Will their ever be enough data and will more of it improve our understanding or add to our knowledge?

Confucius stated that, Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

Albert Einstein stipulated that,… Read more »

milk farmer
July 5, 2009 6:24 am


My apologies for being a bit harsh…but it makes me angry when the good folks that are working tirelessly to produce and promote raw milk are compared equally to those who are working just a tirelessly to prevent consumers from access. It just aint so. That each of them supposedly has similar ‘sacred cows’ doesn’t jive. One side is working with the truth, and creating a miracle of health, the other is lying, deceiving and abusing the powers that they have, to promote the continued decrease in the public health and robbing good people of their quality of life.… Read more »

The Complete Patient
July 5, 2009 9:57 pm

Milk Farmer,
Your point about converting conventional dairies to raw suppliers is well taken. The challenge is that demand for raw milk is growing rapidly, likely faster than existing dairies will be able to supply. Your approach is admirable, and likely very sensible. I just don’t think the supply can grow in such a deliberate fashion. I’m not suggesting that we encourage conventional dairies to skim milk off the top for raw consumption–that would be a disaster because it would almost certainly lead to illnesses, which would lead to harsher government intervention. But there must be some middle road… Read more »

Steve Bemis
July 6, 2009 8:49 am

Great article in today’s NYT about Will Allen farming on a couple of acres in Milwaukee:


milk farmer
July 6, 2009 8:17 pm


If the raw milk supply doesn’t grow in a deliberate fashion, then all that many have worked for will be diminished.

Pigeon holing raw milk into the conventional food supply model is a disaster waiting to happen…..it’s different…and a prime opportunity to alter the way food is acquired, and farmers appreciated, will be lost if we let those mega 100+ cow dairies take advantage of the raw milk demand. Demand may drive the bus, but it’s the farmer that puts fuel in the tank. Encouraging thet disconnect is just more of the same pap we’ve come to expect from ADM… Read more »

The Complete Patient
July 7, 2009 2:13 am

Milk Farmer,
I definitely didn’t mean to disparage farmers who use pseudonyms here because they live in anti-raw-milk locales. I’ve always gone out of my way to try to protect such individuals. Such inadvertent criticism i’s what happens sometimes when you violate your own advice against getting personal in blog writings.

As for your other point, I’m not advocating "pigeonholing raw milk into the conventional food supply model," even though California experience suggests it’s not impossible. Definitely a subject for further discussion.


Pauline Schneider
July 8, 2009 9:14 pm

Miguel quotes the following:
"But the liberal brainwashing by our public schools and our mainstream media has been going on so long, that what once might have seemed like a normal plan is now viewed as right-wing extremism."

I’m not sure if those are Miguel’s words, but he concludes with what are definitely his own words:
"What we really need to do is to make people aware that the federal government assumes that it has the authority to regulate how we get the food we eat.This is what we need to change.This massive power grab by the federal government is obviously not… Read more »

Pauline Schneider
July 8, 2009 9:23 pm

Steve I just read the article. It is great!
Saved it for future lessons in social studies classes talking about Great Depression and that 7 year drought.