Hat-wearing civil rights leader,
Rosa Parks Vernon Hershberger
I’ve had unpasteurized, or “raw” milk. I didn’t immediately have a Popeye-like surge of health and vitality, but it is kinda yummy, and there might be some health benefits. In a lot of states it’s illegal to sell, which makes sense when you consider the factory-farming conditions under which most milk is produced. While raw milk from small, clean farms is very low-risk, regulating food is one of the greatest public health projects ever undertaken by mankind, so I think engaging with regulators and officials is generally the way to go, especially since it’s just milk, and it’s not like regular, pasteurized milk is poison.
Many raw milk enthusiasts disagree. Vernon Hershberger, pictured above, is a Wisconsin raw milk farmer who recently went to trial for attempting to skirt food safety laws by setting up a foodshare co-op, rather than selling it outright. He was eventually acquitted for the sale, indicating he can continue the co-op, though he could still be sentenced for attempting to hide the milk after a raid—popular opinion is that he could end up with a small fine for that one.
Of course, the Alliance for Raw Milk Internationale, or “ARMi,” rallied his cause during the trial. Some picketed the courthouse, with signs that said, “My milk My body My choice,” because invoking the most famous slogan of reproductive liberation in U.S. history seemed to make sense to them. And why wouldn’t it? Forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy is exactly like not being able to obtain unpasteurized dairy products!
His followers also compare him to Rosa Parks. I have two theories about this. One, they both look good in a hat—that’s just an objective fact. The other is that they’re historically confused and conflating anti-racist activists—most folks don’t know about the raw milk farmer whose father posted Angela Davis’ bail, but these people might—I mean, they’re really into raw milk.
But they couldn’t possibly be comparing a white dude selling unpasteurized milk, and a black woman protesting legal racial segregation in public transportation and society at large, at the mercy of a hostile and racist legal system.
No, they could not possibly be making that comparison, because that would just be moronic.
The only thing dumber than that would be comparing raw milk drinkers themselves to the Freedom Riders, one of the most brave, organized, disruptive, and effective groups of civil rights activists in American history.
But reproductive and civil rights aren’t the only issues raw milkers perceive as shared struggles.
Canadian raw milk producer Michael Schmidt, who actually went on a hunger strike for raw milk, gives us this historical reminder:
“We don’t have a Hitler we can blame. We have a faceless bureaucracy which works with cold-hearted, intellectual tactics to destroy this country right at its core and it starts with the food supply.”
That’s right Michael, you don’t have a Hitler. Or a Pol Pot. Or a Mao. Or a Mobutu Sese Seko. Or a General William Tecumseh Sherman. You have neither genocide, nor fascism, nor war, nor oppression of a populous—you have a potentially overarching food safety law, and a lot of confused, misplaced anger about corporate control over agriculture.
And before you accuse me of trying to stifle your free speech by pointing out that you’re making completely idiotic comparisons, let me just say, by all means, please continue to do so.
Just don’t be shocked when your audience suddenly becomes a Guantanamo Bay of eye-rollers!