For Schmidt, Schlangen, Hershberger, It’s Pick Your Legal Poison Time, and We're Not Talking About Raw Milk

Michael Schmidt greeting police arriving at his Ontario farm last August in connection with the ongoing sheep case against him. When you follow the tedium of the legal justice system, you begin to understand why some defendants, even though they are innocent, decide to cop pleas rather than follow the process through to completion. It can be a maddening process that is often difficult for the non-jurist to make sense of, and it doesn’t necessarily matter what country you are in.

Three cases involving food rights activists are cases in point:

*In Canada, raw milk dairy farmer Michael Schmidt was in court Thursday, placed in the awkward position of seeking an Ontario judge’s permission to travel next week to British Columbia so he could stand trial on separate contempt-of-court charges. You see, Schmidt is barred from traveling because he is facing conspiracy charges in Ontario in connection with his supposed involvement in the disappearance of a herd of Shropshire sheep last year in Ontario. The sheep were targeted by public health authorities for slaughter because they were thought to be diseased. As part of Schmidt’s bail terms, he’s had his passport confiscated, and he’s not permitted even to leave Ontario without permission. Hence, his court appearance so he could be granted the privilege of going on trial in another province—the British Columbia charges grow out of his takeover of a herdshare, so that members there would continue to receive their raw milk. Canada’s national health system, Health Canada, had approved use of raw milk as a cosmetic, yet British Columbia public health authorities refused to recognize the designation, and insisted on prosecuting Schmidt, along with an associate. Gordon Watson. It’s generally understood in Canada that Schmidt is in “lockdown” as a way to muffle his powerful voice on behalf of food rights during travels around North America. Schmidt has expressed his views of the motives of the Canadian bureaucrats pressing to punish him, in this article on The Bovine blog.

*In Minnesota, farmer Alvin Schlangen had appealed to a judge in his home Stearns County to drop three of six misdemeanor charges, arguing they were nearly identical to charges he had been acquitted of last September in Hennepin County, mostly involving raw milk distribution. The follow-on charges constituted “serial prosecution,” argued Schlangen’s lawyer, Nathan Hansen. Nothing doing, said the judge, in an opinion issued Thursday. “The crimes charged in Stearns County are separate and apart from any crimes that were charged in Hennepin County. Although the offenses are similar in type, they are not the same crimes and do not constitute a single behavioral incident. A defendant charged, and either convicted or acquitted of a sale crime, cannot thereby immunize himself against being prosecuted for all future sale crimes on different dates in different locations.” It looks as if Schlangen will indeed face a second trial with a second jury…and a very aggressive prosecutor.

*In Wisconsin, raw milk farmer Vernon Hershberger has filed a brief arguing that his religious beliefs prevented him from challenging the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) when his farm store was raided and shuttered in 2010. The state has argued that his failure to challenge the shutdown, which was premised partly on the supposed dangers of raw milk, now prevent him from calling a witness at his trial to testify about the benefits of raw milk. Hershberger in an affidavit accompanying the brief, explained why his religious beliefs prevented him from taking legal action against the state:

"Scripture contains the following admonition in Matthew 5:38-41: '… And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.' The Bible teaches that we should not be aggressors in court actions by suing people or filing counter claims (“cross bills”, below), even though it is possible by course of law to force off the coat from a man's back. We are not to marvel at the matter, but, in such a case, rather than go to the law by way of revenge, rather than exhibit a cross bill, or stand out to the utmost, in defense of that which is our  undoubted right; rather we are to let him even take our cloak also. If the matter be small, which we may lose without a considerable damage to our families, it is good to submit to it for the sake of peace. It will not cost us so much to buy another cloak, as it will cost us by course of law to recover that; and therefore unless we canst get it again by fair means, it is better to let him take it.

“Thus, Scripture requires me to avoid initiating conflict. I cannot be the aggressor in a lawsuit.  I could not request the hearing provided by the administrative rules and referenced on the State’s holding order even though the findings of fact in the order were incorrect, because it would have been tantamount to suing the State and would have violated this Scriptural prohibition on initiating conflict. “

It’s definitely a different take on the American way of handling legalities than most of our increasingly litigious society is inclined towards. It makes a lot of sense, but the judges hearing these food rights cases seem long on legalities, and short on sense. Remember, what this is all about is whether Hershberger can call a particular witness. Who knows what other technicalities the state will raise in an ongoing effort to delay the actual trial, currently scheduled for May.
If nothing else, these legal maneuverings are great opportunities for all concerned to practice  patience, and learn more about the intricacies of our legal systems. Our legal systems represent opportunities to delay and intimidate by the authorities, but they also represent opportunities to educate people about the issues at hand.  Michael Schmidt, Alvin Schlangen, and Vernon Hershberger are performing huge services by standing in for all of us to force the authorities to explain themselves, and allow the public to evaluate the substance of their arguments.

mfpellicano's picture

The "authorities" don't ever feel the need to have to explain anything they do. And as for public education, one can hardly get a bit of information across to the average "Joe/Sally" unless it hits their purse strings.
Those who are interested enough to do even a modicum of research on any food/farm related issue can be overwhelmed by what they find. Sometimes I end up just "standing by" these farmers, because of what little information I can gleen from what I read, and that I believe in their causes, and can 'see' the persecution that they endure at the hands of governments/taxpayer dollars!
Also, I'd like to ask anyone here what their take is on the following: Here is another example of "information" "educating" the public. I literally need a "Paul Harvey" to tell me "the rest of the story!" David G., David M., miguel, Sylvia???...can you comment? I apologize if this has been already covered here...I don't think it has...but I may have missed it if it was.

Sylvia Gibson's picture


This article doesn't say just how "small" of a study it was, also it doesn't state where the bones came from nor what the animals were fed, all of which are very important factors. For myself, I would not want any animal products from the feed lots or chicken houses et al. They all are contaminated to me. We all know, the definition of "Organic" can be very obscure. So called "organic" chickens/beef can come from the feed lots/chicken houses, not what I would want, nor recommend for healthy eating.

Hopefully the doctors/nutritionists will correctly recommend products from healthy environments/fed natural healthy foods. The article itself, would lead me to believe that all bone broth may contain high levels of lead....very misleading. I would bet the majority of people don't look further into the study or ask the above questions about environment/animal feeds, etc.

I make my own broths, if I am out of chicken or beef broth, I then use my vegetable broth. Too many chemical in store bought broth and I have no idea what they fed their animals or the environment they were raised.

Sylvia Gibson's picture

Learning about our foods and health can be very overwhelming. I used to tell my diabetic patients to make very small changes at a time. Let your body and mind get comfortable with each change before moving on. For them or probably anyone, a drastic change in diet leads to failure.

mfpellicano's picture

Silvia, thank you for your reply. I am very aware of CAFO's, so I haven't bought meat of any kind from supermarkets, or other unknown sources in years. I am also aware of the fact that livestock are also what they are fed. This article was so obtuse however, and it's claim so maddening that I just had to research it more today and found the following: I knew I'd find more about this if I just kept looking. And you're right about the word "organic," as it means different things depending on who uses it.

David Gumpert's picture

Yes, good info, Sylvia. I would just add that increasing numbers of people want to avoid the meats, even those labeled organic, sold in supermarkets. There is no guarantee of safety, but the closest we seem to be able to come is food from farmers like Michael Schmidt, Alvin Schlangen, and Vernon Hershberger. That's why their cases are so important--not just for them, but for the many farmers who are emulating them and their means of distributing food. I'd add that, as distasteful as the legal cases against these farmers are, the education component comes as much from monitoring what the authorities reveal in these cases. In court, the regulators are forced to defend their positions, cite data, and it's when they make such attempts that we are able to hear and see the inconsistencies and, often, the emptiness of their arguments.

exactly ... one of the maxims of war is ; "sometimes the best recognizance you can get is 'getting shot at' one tiny example here in BC being: when Fraser Health slapped a Violation Notice on one of our depots, I immediately challenged it. The pricks then managed to have it "stayed" because they realized I'd use the Disclosure protocol in Provincial Court, to open them up like a can of sardines. Afterwards, when I spoke to the agency in charge of prosecuting such Notices, asking for documentation as to who, and why, stayed it, I was told that the Crown Counsel had begged-off, on the ground that 'the signatures on the tickets were indiscernable'. Yeah, well, through FoI I already had their internal documents showing that excuse to be an utter lie.

these Quangoes* are dinosaurs operating on peabrains. They do well as long as citizens just suffer in silence. But when someone gathers-up righteous indignation and focusses it properly, the miscreants are revealed as the little "Wizards of Oz' which they are all along
We the People are only now finding out how powerful this new technology is = the Internet = to put the bureaucrats back in their proper place = as civil servants, rather than our masters
*Quasi-governmental agencies

The effect of regulatory pressure on dairy farmers is to encourage farmers to adopt strategies to minimize the risk involved in providing the local community with the food they seek. This pressure can be seen as a positive influence when you see the long range direction that we are moving in. Regulatory pressure says to the farmer--- stay small scale, very local and be diversified, don't risk more than you can afford to lose . Avoid visibility to those regulators. When confronted by regulators stop the activity that they object to and put your energy into another aspect of your farm . Rather than grow your dairy production, help start other small scale diversified farms to provide for the growing demand. To those who want to legalize the sale of raw milk I would say ,be patient. Millions of small scale diversified farms will pressure the regulators to make the sale of raw milk legal so that they can attempt to regain some level of control. This whole process is dynamic balance in action. We are always moving away from central control towards local control and then returning back to central control in a never ending cycle. Rather than spend a lot of energy fighting against the direction things are moving,if we see the big picture ,we can adjust rather than resist. I think legalization is one stage in the cycle leading back to central control , just like local control is a stage leading to legalization. It is not a war between good and evil, no matter the appearance. It is all following a natural pattern of succession the way an abandoned field will go through stages resulting eventually in mature forest (in some climates) ,then mature trees die and create clearings again.


That's a really amazing perspective. Rather than butt heads with regulators, agree that you will stop or greatly curtail (i.e. family consumption only) the "illegal" practice and then go help others to provide for their families in the same way. The small scale aspect is intriguing, because it means your life isn't devoted to just one thing. Off-farm employment is a possible option among many other possibilities. Keep your options open.


I think your AZ friend is probably correct in how the migrant harvester situation works there. It is in all human nature to help one's family succeed. I can only point out that even $30-$40/hr isn't really a whole lot of money, and that I, personally, would not be able to perform that kind of repetitive work.

Yes, How many vegetable CSA's in your area could benefit from having a cow or goat or chickens added to the farm? It would make the vegetables better because the soil would be improved from the composted manure. If the people in the cities that want raw milk would get to know each other and pool their resources they could quickly expand the number of sources of milk with less risk than the farmers are taking now. There is enough work to producing food without butting heads in court ( their territory) with the regulators.

Sylvia Gibson's picture

kturner, I think the same situation is in many areas in California too.

@ kturner: "$30-$40/hr isn't really a whole lot of money . . ." You must be kidding. To a migrant worker that's a whole lot of money, in fact, in the work I do now it's a helluva lotta money per hour. Do you know any young parents who would pay me that kind of money to watch their infants? I wish. Believe me, I earn it but I don't make it. You'd keel over if you knew what I get paid per hour to watch people's most precious possessions.

Dave Milano's picture

Thought I would share a few paragraphs from Joe Mitchell's famous story, “Old Mr. Flood”, written in 1944. It concerns bread Mr. Flood buys from Mrs. Palumbo's “hole-in-the-wall” bakery in New York:

“Whatever to hell it's called,” he said, “it's good. Mrs. Palumbo knows what she's doing. She don't take ads in the papers to tell big black lies about her vitamins, she don't have a radio program rooting and tooting about her enriched bread, she don't wrap in cellophane, she don't even have a telephone. She just goes ahead and bakes the way her great-great-grandaddy baked. Consequently, by God, lo and behold, her bread is fit to eat. I'm not against vitamins, whatever to hell they are, but God took care of that matter away back there in the hitherto---God and nature, and not some big scientist or other. Years back, bread was the stuff of life. It looked good, it smelled good, it tasted good, and it had all the vitamins in it a man could stand. Then the bakers fiddled and fooled and improved their methods and got things down to such a fine point that a loaf of bread didn't have any more nourishment in it than a brickbat. Now their putting the vitamins back in by scientific means---the way God did it don't suit them; it ain't complicated enough---and they've got the brass to get on the radio and brag about it; they should hide their heads in shame.”

Mr. Maggiani hadn't been paying much attention to Mr. Flood's remarks; he only half listens to him. Now he pursed his lips and nodded his head a couple of times. “Science is a great thing,” he said piously. “It's wonderful what they can do.” Mr. Flood stared at him for a moment, and then let the matter drop.

@ Dave Milano: That is a very interesting tale. Exchange the words 'raw milk' for the word bread and you've got another story to tell. Mr. Flood had a pretty good grasp of the obvious, didn't he? Mr. Maggiani continued to keep his head buried in *scientific progress*. Science isn't always a sign of progress, as many of us here well know.

As I posted somewhere else earlier this week, that Dodge Ram Superbowl commercial wasn't a salute to farming, it was an insult to SMALL farmers, IMPHO. I guess I'm not the only one who found some fault with it. Apparently Baylen Linnekin did too, as well as taking a bit of the gilding off Paul Harvey!

All of those plowed up fields (in the commercial) made my stomach turn. Those should be grass covered hills/fields with cattle grazing on them. Heck of a lot more in keeping with nature than bigagri plowed fields planted with gMo (OMG!) crops and then sprayed like the dickens with poisonous chemicals that penetrate the soil and ruin it, then into the ground water, also into the air we breathe - not to mention into the seeds themselves and then into whoever eats the junk made from it, including our animals. How can that be good? I'll admit - a field of standing wheat is a beautiful sight, but I'd much rather see a gorgeous sight - a green pasture.

Here is another take on the Dodge Ram commercial.

@ Ron Klein: Heh heh! Good one.

This would be an excellent *opener* for an even bigger look at the corruption in agrifarming today. Small farmers should actually be called small "growers" because mixing them into the same bin with the farmers of today is certainly not an accurate accounting.

Also, I should have mentioned in my other post that most people (especially the citified class) have no concept of the fact that a rancher and a farmer are not the same thing. And then there's the dairy farmer which is another subset because he has to DO something with his animals - twice every day. City dwellers oftentimes don't have a clue. Sorta like the writers for that commercial. ;-)

Jan Steinman's picture

The BC Schmidt trial is of particular interest to EcoReality Co-op (, as we also have a small goat heard share operation.

A couple months ago, I came home to find the business card of a Vancouver Island Health Authority agent in my door, with "CALL ME!" written on it. Instead, I called a lawyer who has been active in regional raw milk cases. He reported that the agent said they were watching the Schmidt case, and that they would be restrained until its outcome, but if the case went against Our Cows, then all hell would break loose and all manner of small herd shares that VIHA and other health authorities have been watching would probably be raided and shut down.

So this is a pivotal case, folks. Show your support, or the only raw milk in BC will be that brought across the border from Washingon, which is ironically and paradoxically legal to bring in to BC.

@ Jan Steinman: " . . . the only raw milk in BC will be that brought across the border from Washington, which is ironically and paradoxically legal to bring in to BC."

That is insanity at its finest. Guess who's in charge? The gubment in Canada and the uSa - they're the rule-makers. But it's illegal for me to go to Washington and bring milk to my state (SD). Oy vey. It's time someone somewhere gets thumped by reality. Preferably someone with "authority".

I wish I could be more in support of ALL the pending cases but, other than monetary donations, I don't really see how that's possible. I do the best I can, don't we all?

Jan Steinman's picture

@D. Smith, thanks for your words of support. I wish you were in BC!

For those who <b>do</b> live in BC, there is another avenue: the provincial election in May offers an unprecedented opportunity for raw milk supporters. The opposition party (New Democratic Party, or NDP) has gone on record as supporting herd shares as an innovative approach to getting around the Federal prohibition on the distribution of raw milk.

At a Food Freedom rally in November 2011, Agriculture Critic Lana Popham and Health Critic Mike Farnworth said in front of a crowd of some 100 demonstrators and supported "on behalf of caucus" recognizing herd shares for distributing raw milk.

This means that, come May, we could have an Agriculture Minister and a Health Minister who have gone on record supporting herd shares for distributing raw milk. So if you can vote in BC, no matter your political affiliation, I urge you to take this opportunity to be a "single issue voter," and to vote NDP.

here's the link to a 39 minute video, of the demonstration Jan refers to ( scroll down the page a bit)
... his goat and a nice little Jerseycow with admirers, on the very precinct of the Legislature ... with Members of the Legislature promising they will de-criminalize REAL MILK, if and when the NDP forms the government

Jan Steinman's picture

Actually, what Agriculture Critic Lana Popham said "on behalf of caucus" (meaning she was representing the entire party, not just her own views) was, "Having access to raw milk through cow-share programs where devotees buy a share of a dairy herd for personal use and not for resale seems like an innovative and reasonable solution."

In Canada, it's a *Federal* prohibition against raw milk, so BC cannot arbitrarily "decriminalize" it. But a province can choose to view shared ownership as a way of consuming the raw milk from an animal you own, which *is* legal in Canada. So far.

The NDP is indeed a small-s "socialist" party, but I wouldn't compare them to the Greens. On green issues, the NDP is more likely to side with jobs than with the environment. They were against BC carbon tax, for example, claiming it would cost jobs.

rawmilkmike's picture

David, why do you keep saying things like "the risks have declined with improved sanitation techniques and the focus by more farmers on improving production techniques"? You yourself have shown the bias in outbreak reporting. Improved sanitation will have no effect on bias so how can it improve raw milk's safety record?

David Gumpert's picture

Apart from bias in reporting, there still are illnesses caused by tainted raw milk, and some of those may be the result of sanitation problems. Sanitation was a huge issue 100 years ago and more, when lots of illnesses were attributable to raw milk.

rawmilkmike's picture

Isn't that only an assumption David? Have you ever seen any documentation to back that up? We don't even have documentation to back up the present day assumption, do we? I don't mind if a few bureaucrats want to use this assumption to skim a little cream off of dairy sales under the pretext of public safety but I don't see why we should promote it if there is no documentation.

Jan Steinman's picture

Have you read "The Untold Story of Milk," by Ron Schmid?

There's plenty of documentation. But you have to do a bit of research, no?

The Schmid book is a good place to start. If you have specific questions after having read the book, I'm willing to help get answers.

rawmilkmike's picture

Are you talking to me? "Chapter 4. Microbes vs. Milieu: What Really Causes Disease? page 43" doesn't this chapter say just what I was saying?

rawmilkmike's picture

David, you've been in the game longer than me. Could you show me the best example of the anti milk lobbies "illnesse caused by tainted raw milk".

rawmilkmike's picture

Or is this just a disclaimer you feel it necessary to post from time to time.

I'm aware that there were santitation issues with newly-industrialized milk - a typical disease of food commodification, with pasteurization mandates as a typical Tower-of-Babel kludge.

But I fail to see what that has to do with raw milk as such, or the Community Food movement, a completely separate sector. (Except insofar as industrial ag assaults and contaminates it.)

Sylvia Gibson's picture

When I worked in hospitals, they pushed the use of foam sanitizers. They left a coating on your hands. I can see why C-diff was spread patient to patient.

" volunteers who used alcohol-based antiviral hand sanitizer every three hours had no significant drop in flu or rhinovirus infections, "

Imagine that.

"A 2012 study reports that that the antibacterial chemical triclosan impaired muscle function in fish and mice, "

I think there have been other studies that pointed to this too. Yet it is "allowed" by tptb.

"Exposure to everyday germs during childhood may prevent diseases later in life."

They needed another study to figure this out?

rawmilkmike's picture

Vernon's lawyer is paid by concerned citizens. His food club is made up of health minded consumers. DATCP is by law the food processing industry. The court should, in this case, have more respect for the people Vernon represents than for the companies the states is representing.

Food rights cases are not like most cases where the defendant is the accused, the state represents the people, and the victim is one individual. In a food rights case the state is the accused, the defendant represents the people, and the victim is the defendant and the majority of Wisconsin citizens which he represents.

A judge's discretion, should always weigh in favour of justice, the victim, and the people of Wisconsin and never ruthless special interests like DATCP or even Vernon's own lawyer. These are truly cases of prosecutors gone wild.

"In a food rights case the state is the accused"

Silly me, and here I thought all those cops and prosecutors and bureaucrats and legislators serving as Big Ag's welfare bagmen, flunkeys, and thugs, WERE the state.

Also, please name a single case where "the state represents the people", and where is that? I'd like to move there, because no state I've ever heard of in all of history represented anything but concentrated hierarchy and power.

Sylvia Gibson's picture
Sylvia Gibson's picture

D. Smith, It would make sense, if the altering of the genes affect the plants, it will also affect whatever consumes them. A slow poisoning of the earth and all that's on it. More reason to grow your own food and know what your farmer does.

@ Sylvia: Yeah, but they're talking viral, not just bacterial. Scary.