The very word “rabies” arouses strong feelings in most of us. I can remember as a child being told that if I got bitten by a squirrel or stray dog, I’d have to endure a series of painful shots. Otherwise, I’d risk an agonizing death that would have me foaming at the mouth.
Now raw milk drinkers in Vermont are having their fear memories jogged by the same sort of warnings. “Raw Milk Dairy In Vermont Has Cow With Rabies That Threatens 21 With Painful Shots” warns one of the blogs of food poisoning law firm MarlerClark, and its head, Bill Marler.
And a big part of the reason Vermont raw milk drinkers have to worry so much? According to MarlerClark, “Vermont’s Legislature…just loosened up regulation of raw milk sales in the state, lifting the 50 quart per day cap on how much can be sold. Groups like the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, and Rural Vermont guided passage of theFresh Milk Restoration Act of 2009.” Damn those liberal foodies, pushing all this permissive legislation. It’ll be the end of us all, I swear.
But wait. If you read through the MarlerClark item to the last sentence you get this little tidbit: “The Centers for Disease Control has no record of rabies being transmitted by drinking raw milk, but health officials say they cannot rule out the possibility.”
Well, in the interests of objectivity, I guess you have to give the MarlerClark people a teeny bit of credit for at least slightly tempering their fear mongering. (Although, as MarlerClark suggests, You never know. You just never know. And you can never ever be too safe. While we’re at it, let’s wash our hands an extra five times today and say “Thank our lucky stars, and thank the benevolent folks at MarlerClark.”)
But this sort of fear mongering has been going on for a good while. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in its, shall we say, rabid, anti-raw milk presentation of 2007, describes a case in Oklahoma involving raw milk supposedly contaminated by a cow’s rabies, under the heading “Rabies Scare.” “10,000 consumers potentially exposed,” the slide tells us breathlessly.
Then in the next slide it tells us, hands practically wringing out raw milk, that 186 consumers took those terribly painful rabies shots, at a cost of $186,000. Terrible. Awful. Let’s take those raw milkies out back and shoot them. They’re endangering adults and little children alike, and bleeding our treasury. I mean, how can we tolerate such permissiveness?
But wait, once again. Further down in the slide we learn, “No cases of human rabies reported.”
No matter. We dodged a bullet. Whew. Aren’t we fortunate to have people like FDA Dairy Czar John Sheehan and personal injury lawyer Bill Marler looking after our welfare. We need more public-spirited people like them, to save us from painful rabies shots and…just the terrible fear of it all. It’s enough to give us, and especially our children, awful nightmares. Except for one detail. There isn’t a single documented case of anyone contracting rabies from raw milk, ever. If anyone can find one, let us know.
Now, I understand that rabies is a potentially serious public health concern and that officials in our gotcha-oriented society need to issue their warnings. And perhaps farmers could be encouraged to be more diligent in vaccinating their cows against rabies that can spread from skunks and racoons. But do us all a favor, and tell us upfront that the danger to people is much more acute from direct bites by bats and skunks and racoons, and that you’re doing this rabies-in-raw-milk warning as a pro-forma exercise in case individuals want to be super cautious and not be the first case ever in the annals of human history. And don’t blame your desire to warn us on political legislation you happen to oppose.