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Wholly Without Merit: No Right to Food Choice

October 20, 2011

In this follow-up to our last post, “Wisconsin Judge Denies Basic Property Rights and Food Choice,” one of the plaintiffs in the case passionately expresses her dismay at the ruling.

By Gayle Loiselle, Plaintiff

Wisconsin Judge Patrick J. Fiedler impudently ruled that “no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice.” This is the latest in a string of astonishing court proceedings focused on the rights of consumers and small businesses to own a dairy cow, enter into a contract agreement with a farmer, and consume unpasteurized milk. In his decision on the plaintiffs’ Clarification Motion, Judge Fiedler called our claim of fundamental rights “underdeveloped” and “wholly without merit,” and went on to say the government has a legitimate interest in regulating the sale and/or distribution and consumption of unpasteurized milk “because it can result in serious illness.”

As a plaintiff in this case I find it “wholly without merit” and completely ludicrous that Judge Fiedler ruled I have no right to own and drink milk from my cow, because I may get sick. Yet I do have the fundamental right to smoke cigarettes, get drunk, carry a gun, and blow my brains out after taking prescription antidepressants. Clearly, this issue is not about protecting the health of consumers. It is rather about control of the production, distribution, and sale of all milk and milk products.

USDA research shows that between 1970 and 2006, the number of farms with dairy cows fell from 648,000 operations in 1970 to 75,000 in 2006 — or 88%.  Production is shifting to farms with at least 500 cows, with the most striking changes occurring in dairies with at least 2,000 milk cows. The number of farms in this largest size class more than doubled between 2000 and 2006, as did its shares of cow inventory and total milk production. The majority of these cows each produce 100 pounds of milk per day, they are routinely fed antibiotics and growth hormones, and the horrifying conditions these cows live in are well documented — just Google “factory farms.” These cows are not healthy, and this is not the milk I choose to drink or feed to my family, even after it is pasteurized.

On the other hand, small family farms can and do produce milk that is safe to drink “straight from the cow,” as my kids put it. Raw milk contains beneficial health giving organisms that would be destroyed if pasteurized, and the taste is far superior to that of pasteurized milk. I own and pay board on a cow because it is illegal for me to just buy raw milk from a farm. My cow lives in a herd of about 30, including young stock and a bull, and most days they are out on over 50 acres of pasture. This farm is run on organic and biodynamic principles; it is self-sustaining, environmentally friendly, and able to supply over 200 families with fresh milk, eggs, pork, beef, poultry, and honey. This type of direct farm-to-consumer food supply system makes sense on so many levels: for public health, growing local and rural economies, long-term environmental sustainability, and national food security.

The FDA, USDA, and Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) rely on industry compliance with regulations, licensing, and inspections to protect the nation’s food supply. Still, the CDC estimates that each year roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. The most recent failure of the government to protect consumers is tainted cantaloupe, which was shipped to 24 states and has sickened 84 and killed 17 people so far. I trust my local farmer monumentally more than the government to provide healthy, nutrient dense, uncontaminated, real, unmanufactured food. This is my choice to make; the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are very clear on that.

Government agencies and members of the judicial system are increasingly emboldened to rule as they see fit regardless of the law, the Constitution, the will of the people, or common sense. Judge Fiedler’s ruling is a blatant manipulation of the inherent meaning of the Constitution, an abuse of power, and is a threat to the core values of our country, our freedoms, and our very well-being. “We the people” need to stand up and remind our government servants that we live in a free democratic society in which we most definitely do have the fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of our choice! 

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