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.