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The August 3, 2011 shakedown of the Rawesome food cooperative in Venice, California, in spite of the tragic outcome, has produced one positive result. The ruthless raid on the part of miscellaneous government agencies has sparked a wave of unprecedented discord over the question – How can government dictate what we choose to eat when we each have unique standards for good nutrition?
This federalista blitzkrieg came at a time when raw milk alarmism had reached an all-time high. The folks who wish to banish raw milk can't leave the issue alone, and instead they have ramped up a cacophonous crusade against one of nature's natural glories. Day after day, articles and news bits appear in the mainstream media, full of fear mongering and panic-producing propaganda in regards to the safety of raw milk.
A July 2011 article on Dairyherd.com has some interesting survey results on comparative raw milk regulations on a state-by-state basis. To summarize, thirty states allow consumers to transact with raw milk producers while twenty states prohibit that act of freedom. And don't forget that federal laws prevent the sale of any raw milk over state lines. The fed's response to the good white stuff moving over state lines is to send in armed soldiers in full battle gear to seize and destroy.
Thirteen mini-regimes across the U.S. allow the sale of raw milk on the farm where it was produced, while four of those thirteen allow only "incidental occurrences," which, of course, cannot be defined. After all, it is the use of arbitrary laws with a host of potential interpretations that enables the feds to conduct their criminal operations that consist of seizing product and regulating small producers out of business. Incidental occurrences is defined as "occasional sales, not as a regular course of business; no advertising." Surely, the feds can interpret "occasional" and "regular" and "advertising" in a whole host of capricious ways.
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Four of those thirteen states only allow raw goat milk while Kentucky and Rhode Island – now get this – require a prescription from a physician! Of course, you can interpret that to mean raw milk must be medicinal (ask Moms who remedy their child's allergies with raw milk), but then again, there's no such thing as a Big Milk Pharma that exists as a corporate arm of the state to keep its products available for the masses. Lastly, eleven states allow raw milk to be sold in retail stores outside of the farm.
Several of the states that allow the sale of raw milk for human consumption have various twists and turns in their laws that make it very difficult to get the milk from the farm to the consumer. This essentially limits, or in some cases prevents, the sale of the product. However, imaginative entrepreneurs whose businesses are stifled by the government's totalitarian decrees have conceived the idea of herd shares, and this allows folks to jump through aboveboard hoops to buy a "piece" of a herd and get their raw milk. Though this is a costly administrative burden for both buyer and seller, any time that people can conjure up visionary ways to skirt the laws of the regime, freedom has taken a small step forward.
Rawesome was a private, voluntary cooperative of consenting members who took responsibility for any potential risks. Rawesome members even signed waivers before becoming a food club member. With all of the agencies involved (USDA, FDA, LA County Sheriff, CDC) over a period of a year, this jihad came at great expense to taxpayers. The LA Weekly described it this way:
The official word from the DA's office is that Stewart, Palmer & Bloch were arrested on criminal conspiracy charges stemming from the alleged illegal production and sale of unpasteurized goat milk, goat cheese, yogurt and kefir. The arrests are the result of a yearlong sting. The 13-count complaint alleges that an undercover agent received goat milk, stored in a cooler in the back of Healthy Family Farms van, in the parking lot of a grocery store. While it's legal to manufacture and sell unpasteurized dairy products in California, licenses and permits are required. Rawesome may have violated regulations by selling raw dairy products to non-members.
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Here is a link to the 21-page complaint. Among the many charges against owner James Stewart is one that immediately stands out: entering into private leasing arrangements with consumers. This charge is still fuzzy, and I am sure the feds can produce a whole book of crimes.
In a recent edition of The Atlantic, an article was published that does a solid job of covering the Rawesome food club raid and its aftermath. The Atlantic writer, Ari LeVaux, compares the Rawesome raid by Federal and local agencies to the contamination of 36 million pounds of Cargill ground turkey (one tally is 77 known ill people, 1 dead). Rawesome was raided, trashed, and shut down, and meanwhile, Cargill executives were analyzing the costs of a recall vs. the potential for negative publicity from the tainted meat so they could voluntarily decide whether or not to recall the product.
LeVaux went on to say that food freedom in America is vanishing. A quote from the end of the article: "This is the state of food freedom in America today: It's being sacrificed in the name of food safety." But this is not about safety. These raids against about (1) seizing power, which benefits federal and local governments and provides justification for their continued growth through the looting of taxpayers, (2) eliminating the competition for the rent-seeking corporate state, meaning the big business-big government alliance, (3) displaying the omnipotent power of the enforcement state (militarized police and federal/state agencies), and (4) affirming rejection of any individual's right to self-ownership, and thus making the case that we are subjects to be ruled, including our behaviors and personal lifestyle choices. The apostles of safety – assorted lawyers, corporate interests, meddlesome consumers, and other misguided safety advocates – have joined the government's campaign against raw milk to promote their own special interests and opinions. There is no tyranny of good intentions here.
Another analysis I have not heard mentioned is that this raid was, in fact, a test case for the new powers granted to the FDA under the Food Safety Modernization Act. Yet, when I wrote about this totalitarian decree just one year ago (see #1 here and #2 here), I received emails from many folks stating that my concern was embellished and misplaced. Yet this regulatory food bill has opened the doors for federal intrusion at the most basic level of choosing one's food. Food freedomist author and blogger Dave Gumpert had this interesting comment on his blog:
I'm beginning to wonder: Is the cruelty of depriving your population of essential foods a war crime? If there were a real war going on, with guns firing, it could be. A United Nations panel has accused the Sri Lanka military of war crimes for denying food to civilians in a war zone.
We're certainly edging closer to war here, as guns have been drawn in the war on Rawesome (see photo above). For now, the answer to government attacks on food distribution is to go underground, avoid fixed locations like the Rawesome outlet in Venice, CA. In the meantime, perhaps we should be gathering names for possible war crimes actions against those guilty of this basest of crimes – stealing the people's food.
Rawesome had been raided previously, in 2010, and here is a very telling – and almost pathetically comical – video of cops barging into the organic-natural food store with guns drawn during the 2010 raid.