Supreme Court of Canada won’t hear appeal from raw milk crusader Michael Schmidt

Aug 14, 2014

By Amanda Brodhagen,

The country’s top court says it will not hear an appeal from Michael Schmidt, a Durham-area Ontario farmer who has long advocated for the right to sell raw (unpasteurized) milk.

Schmidt has been battling the courts since 2011. Losing the bid to have his case heard at the Supreme Court of Canada puts to rest any hope that he had to continue his “cow-share” program legally. If he had been granted an oral hearing, Schmidt was going to argue to have the provincial ruling overturned on the grounds that it violated his Charter rights.

In Ontario, it’s illegal to sell or distribute raw milk, but it’s not against the law for farmers to drink it. Schmidt tried to get around the rule by selling shares of his dairy cows. Willing consumers would buy shares in Schmidt’s cows ($300 for a quarter to $1200 for a full share) in return for raw milk. He had a 24-cow milking herd, made-up of Canadienne cows (a rare dairy breed), with about 150 people paying into the scheme.

In 2006, Schmidt’s farm was raided by authorities. He was later convicted in 2011 of violating the Health Protection, Promotion Act and the Milk Act and fined $9,150. Earlier this year, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld its 2011 ruling, noting that the cow-share program was a tactic to skirt the law. Additionally, health officials maintain that unpasteurized milk poses a health risk, while Schmidt’s supporters insist that raw milk offers health benefits.

As is common with the courts, there was no reason provided for the refusal to hear Schmidt’s case.

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