Raw Milk Is Not Crack

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November 20, 2006

I drink raw milk because, not only is the taste far superior to the bluish, opaque fluid found in plastic jugs from supermarkets, but because, unlike the highly processed supermarket kind, raw milk is highly beneficial to me. It is healthful, nourishing and contains its own enzymes to help my body process and absorb its lovely, living nutrients. It also helps replenish the supply of enzymes found in the digestive tract that are necessary for healthy digestion and immunity. (For more detail see 'The Real McCoy.')

My family and I have been drinking raw milk now for years. Our health has improved. We've become more consciously aware of eating to feel good rather than make the gnawing go away. Now and then I find myself in a situation where nutritious foods are not available to me; I get caught up in the moment, and I drink processed milk in the form of hot chocolate or whatever. (You'd be surprised how narrow one's choices become when one is determined to live well in a mainstream, consumer-mad world.) What follows is not pretty. My body seems surprised that after all this time I would go and do something evil to it! I get abdominal distress for several days and, like a partier with a hangover, I swear off the evil stuff for good.

Government in most states will not allow the outright sale of raw milk to consumers. Here in Michigan , as in other states, small farmers rely on a cow share program to distribute their products without finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. Cow-share owners become part owners of a cow or herd, legally allowing them to be in possession of raw milk. Paying for milk is akin to paying the farmer for the boarding of 'your' cow.

I'm happy to say that I own shares of natural, healthy cows, which are pasture fed and treated humanely. One such farmer, Richard Hebron of Vandalia , Michigan , runs a small co-op with two others. Libertarian Joel Salatin, whom you may have read about in the pages of Strike The Root in the past, is Hebron 's mentor in the natural farming business.

Most small, commercial farmers are not within easy commuting distance for us city dwellers. For this reason, Hebron brings his natural products to his customers at various drop-off points. One is at a church in Birmingham , Michigan , another is at a warehouse offered to them by the owner of Morgan & York Wine and Specialty Shop in Ann Arbor . York did this to be a good neighbor, and he rightfully assumed Hebron 's customers would patronize his business if he allowed them to use his property in this way. As word got out about the superiority and accessibility of his products, Hebron 's business, Family Farms, began to grow. This is a splendid example of order emerging spontaneously without the use of force.

In its never-ending pursuit to save us from ourselves and pound its chest like a bull ape, the state government decided that, despite facts to the contrary, all these healthy, private dairy products were dangerous, and in DEA jackboot fashion, set out, by hook or by crook, to put a stop to it. Not that it's any of their business to begin with, but that has never stopped government thugs before. They prefer underhanded, strong-arm tactics whenever possible, and they recently got the chance to use them on Hebron and his wife.

We're from the government and we're here to help you.

One delivery day last month, as usual, Hebron set out with his truck loaded with fresh, healthy farm products. While his customers gathered at delivery sites awaiting his arrival, Hebron was stopped on the side of the highway in the climax of a sting operation by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. His products were seized because, he was told, 'they were not labeled.' They did not attempt to arrest him because there was no actual 'crime' (other than what they were doing to him, of course). When the goons from the MDA realized they could never fit the products they were attempting to seize into their own vehicles, they told Hebron he could either deliver his products to Lansing for them, or they would also seize his truck and he could find his own way home. ('To serve and protect.') He was not even allowed a call home. Being loath to surrender his means of livelihood, he drove to Lansing for them and returned home late that night empty handed.

Unbeknownst to Hebron , his wife back at the family home was also simultaneously served with a warrant. Besides the $7,000 worth of products that were stolen from these hard-working people, their home was searched and their computer and all records were seized, making any further business difficult to conduct.

Overzealous government thugs intoxicated with power, with nothing better to do, were willing to leave the man stranded, empty handed, on the side of the road. This image is a universal one painted by government thugs everywhere, from third-world dictators to the U.S.A ' the world's largest bureaucratic, debt-ridden, corrupt empire. With confiscatory taxes, inflation, fiat currency, manipulation of economic data, and pork barrel spending, what taxpayer has not been left stranded and empty-handed on the side of life's road?

Hebron was lucky to be left standing. I shudder to think what might have happened to him had he resisted. Here's a video of Hebron speaking from his tiny home, thanking his customers for their support throughout this bureaucratically induced ordeal. You can hear his children in the background. Does he look like a threat to anyone? I can tell you, the man is a gentle soul.

There are no clear rules about whether or not cow-share programs are legal in Michigan . State legislatures have done nothing, despite outcry from small farmers. Small farmers have no lobby, and legislators understand that the power they possess over policy is worth something to big business. The legality of raw milk will be decided by men who have a lot to gain. If it appears they may not get re-elected for eliminating a particular freedom, they'll vote for freedom. If they're not up for re-election when the issue comes to the forefront, there is no doubt in my mind that agribusiness will be able to step in and buy the outlawing of raw milk 'for the children.'

The problems for Family Farms began when one of Hebron 's customers, who didn't buy milk from him one week, served her children processed supermarket milk. They experienced severe abdominal distress. When she took them to a doctor, she mentioned that she does use raw milk.

The doctor alerted authorities and the bureaucratic nightmare for the Hebrons began. It continues as of this writing. Even though the children's illness was never traced to raw milk, this did not stop the state from implying otherwise and laying the pimp hand down. Why let a minor detail like scientific fact interfere with an opportunity to flex some muscle, even if it means destroying a family's livelihood?

First an undercover agent of the Michigan Department of Agriculture had attempted to buy some raw milk outright from Hebron . He refused, stating that he could not sell to anyone who was not a part owner of one of the cows. (Remember, we're not talking about crack or a sawed-off shotgun, but nourishing, unprocessed, high-quality milk.) Later the agent bought a cow-share and some milk, which the state tested. It was revealed to be disease-free, very high quality milk. Neither this, nor the fact that Hebron is not a retailer, but a supplier to a private group could not deter the steam this engine was picking up.

Business Week picked up Hebron 's story. Director of the Michigan Agriculture Department's Food & Dairy Division, Katherine Fedder, says, "Our concern is that there's a violation of the Michigan law to distribute misbranded products and unpasteurized dairy products out of an MDA -licensed food establishment." The investigation will likely take "a few more weeks before we have clarification."

In other words, they can't really come up with a broken law. Still Fedder claims that Hebron and/or the co-op could be charged with "a whole variety of things" under a Michigan food law and a dairy law,' without actually mentioning which one. Maybe it's one that doesn't exist yet!

Let's see: the government can pass laws to retroactively protect itself from criminal culpability, even when it has violated longstanding humanitarian standards (The Military Commissions Act of 2006). I see little difficulty with the whores of government passing laws, jeopardizing the rest of us retroactively. 'End around' is the name of the game, and government makes the rules, subject to change. That's how the 'just us' system works, folks. Constitution be damned. Common sense be damned, too. They say truth is the first casualty of war; it follows that liberty is the first casualty of bureaucracy.

'The experience has left the Hebrons shaken. 'They treated us pretty much like we were drug dealers,' he says. Moreover, it's not clear if any of the co-op members will be charged with a crime . . . 'I have a customer in Chicago who says he's from Russia .' Says Hebron . 'He thinks this is worse than what happens in Russia .'"

Everyone is aware that the economy in Michigan is ailing. It goes without saying that we would be in much better shape if we weren't paying high taxes to bureaucrats whose closest brush with actual business is to interfere with it. Is it even worth asking how much taxpayer money was wasted on this travesty?

Ms. Fedder is concerned about violation of law. Concerned? That's a pretty mild word for such an assault on a private, peaceful family business. She has obviously spent too much time in government schools. Something illegal is not necessarily wrong, Ms. Fedder, and something legal is not necessarily right. My concern, Ms. Fedder, is that there are flagrant violations of the highest law of the land and one must be deaf, dumb and blind to miss them. You know which one I mean, the one you and your ilk are sworn and well compensated to uphold ' the right of the people to life, liberty and happiness.

An infamous old sage, offering simple life advice once said, 'Get the log out of your own eye before you attempt to help your brother with the speck in his.' He said nothing about taking other people's property to 'help' them stay well or running other people's lives for them, no matter how much harm is done in the process. In two thousand years, this is how we've progressed?

It's the old, 'this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you' line of malarkey. Every kid knows it's crap, but sadly, by the time they turn into adults, they buy into it. If something hurts you and you do it anyway, I'd say you have a serious emotional problem. To harm others intentionally ' that's criminal, unless you're from the government, then it's business as usual. I wonder how Ms. Fedder would like her private business scrutinized by a nosy control freak with the force of the guns of government behind him, while being forced to pay tribute for it all. I think she might not like it very much.

These violations of our basic rights go on every day in every city in America . It is said that no one can live an entire day without breaking at least four laws. How convenient for the state. Without so much as lifting a finger, they have something to hold over everyone. The MDA , while silent on agribusiness abuses, is strangely beginning to resemble the DEA in its jack-booted war on America . Is it a stretch to see them conducting no-knock raids to see what kind of milk is in your refrigerator? No-knock will soon become the norm across the board, as law-abiding Americans have been castrated by the current administration. These criminals in government should all be rounded up and prosecuted for civil rights violations and treason. They should be made to personally make restitution to everyone they've harmed. Unfortunately, most bureaucrats never even have to run for re-election.

In normal, underhanded fashion, the MDA also declared a propaganda war with scare tactics rather than fact against Hebron 's associates. Tommy York, the good neighbor who allowed Hebron to use his commercial property to deliver products to his group, was served a warrant to cease and desist. In typical strong-arm fashion, he was faced with a loss of his food license, closure of his business and bankruptcy. "As a citizen, I want to fight, but as a businessman, I can't," says York . And of Hebron, "the nicest guy in the world. I've gotten to know him well over the last two years." Of the MDA : 'Their tactics are so heavy-handed. They could have said, 'We have some concerns,' and we could make some adjustments in how this is handled. This whole sting thing is ridiculous. I have to toe the line or I lose my livelihood."

If there are no charges brought against Hebron ? The state's goons couldn't care less that he was robbed of thousands of dollars of income, not to mention the disruption and stress on him and his family. If there are unsubstantiated charges? Hebron will have to hire himself a knowledgeable attorney. There is a war on raw milk, and big agribusiness is on the other side of it. Unfortunately, this hardworking, family man is in the middle of it. Agribusiness is well funded and ruthless. If agribusiness is willing to donate millions in campaign funds and lobbying efforts, how many billions do they stand to gain?

If you're outraged and would like to help, support your local farmer. To donate to Family Farms legal fund, click here. Any funds not used for Hebron 's legal defense will be donated to a legal defense fund for fighting against other such travesties of out of control government looking to criminalize real milk and, naturally, the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness too.

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Retta Fontana's picture
Columns on STR: 53

Retta Fontana is an atheist, anarchist, baker, potter and parenting teacher.  Children are her favorite people.