The Reality of Raw Milk Illnesses, and How They Allow the Debate to Be Hijacked; Pig Slaughter in MI
Like a lot of people, I appreciated Tim Wightman's comment following my previous post. Especially his observation: "To blame health authorities for an outright bias and or 'conspiracy' allows those who make the claim to ignore their own limitations in understanding any possible threats to the product and limits the effort for constant learning needed to produce a product of increasing safety and the developed practice to do so."
As it turns out, I heard from a couple of other raw milk proponents--James Stewart of Rawesome Food Club fame and Rahman Dalrymple, a Los Angeles raw milk activist going back more than a decade (to helping lift ban on raw milk in Los Angeles in 2001)--and they argued something similar, that I missed an important nuance in how I made my argument about the scapegoating of raw milk producers.
One problem with outbreaks of the type happening in Missouri and Oregon is that they distract the debate from the real issues, the two feel. "It's not about raw milk versus pasteurized milk," Stewart explained. "It's about dirty versus clean milk...They (raw milk opponents) want it to be about raw versus pasteurized." The reason is that the producers of "dirty" raw milk will inevitably be held up as evidence that raw milk is inherently unsafe.
While he has no inside information on the dairies in Missouri and Oregon that are being blamed for sickening people, Dalrymple is inclined to believe there's a problem. "If people are getting sick, it's because the milk isn't clean," he said. That can occur as a result of any number of husbandry problems.
In the early 1900s, "You had dairies producing dangerous milk. I understand why the regulations came in."
Stewart and Dalrymple are at odds with others in the raw milk movement, who claim the officials are unfairly blaming raw milk for illnesses. Says Dalrymple: "Before any discussions on this topic take place it is imperative that both parties distinguish whether the raw milk in question is 'clean' or 'dirty' and maintain this clarity throughout the debate. Otherwise both sides are simultaneously right and wrong." A key indicator as to whether milk is dirty is if people are getting sick.
Stewart pointed out that in six years of running Rawesome, and offering raw milk from dairies via herdshare or lease arrangements, there was never a single complaint about anyone getting sick from the Rawesome milk. He says he had members from Rawesome who knew something about dairy operations scout out the dairies he worked with, including living at the dairies for short periods, to confirm they were feeding the cows properly and using sanitary milking and handling methods. He says he was obsessive about cleanliness at Rawesome.
The key to determining whether milk is clean, in his experience, is seeing how long it lasts in the refrigerator without smelling bad. "It should last three weeks in the fridge without smelling."
Milk that begins to smell bad after a few days should be avoided, and the dairy that produces it should be avoided, he said.
The only complaints of people reacting badly to food at Rawesome, he said, came from Rawesome co-founder Aajonus Vonderplanitz, and one of his nutritional clients, who complained about physical symptoms from eggs that came from Sharon Palmer, a farmer who supplied Rawesome.
He notes that, ironically, nearly all the felony and misdemeanor charges against him, Palmer, and Victoria Bloch filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney had to do with distributing raw milk. (There was one charge for selling improperly labeled eggs.)
A few others have made a similar complaint here in the past--that a few raw dairies whose milk has led to illness make life difficult for the vast majority that do a good job. It's a provocative view in the sense that it implies a lack of unity. I've long felt that the purpose of the Raw Milk Institute was to investigate situations like these, so everyone could learn from possible screwups. After all, the fact remains, the best way to shut up the critics is to not have any illnesses.
The reports out of Michigan about its Department of Natural Resources sending out teams to slaughter heritage pigs, or force farmers to slaughter their own pigs, including newborns, raised on small farms are truly disgusting. NaturalNews says that two farms have been raided in recent days.
There are additional discouraging details from the web site of Mark Baker, a Michigan farmer who has been lobbying legislators to block the order that took effect April 1, mandating elimination of so-called feral hogs. Seems as if the only hope may be for some kind of court order blocking the rampage.