In 1988, a law was passed in B.C. which made all raw milk a “health hazard.” This law is now Section 2(a) of the Health Hazards Regulation under the Public Health Act.
Despite the fact that
- individuals may collectively own property, including livestock;
- individuals may employ others to care for their livestock;
- products from livestock – meat, milk, offspring, manure, hides, and wool – are the property of the owners;
- contracts between livestock owners and agister are private, free-enterprise agreements between two parties;
- if you own the animal, you are not buying milk from that animal;
- herdshare owners pay GST on their monthly agistment fees, as this is a service, not a product;
- over-regulation – imposing costs and standards which producers or consumers are unable to meet – is a form of prohibition, creating a black market;
- fresh milk produced by procedures intended for direct consumption is not the same as unpasteurized milk produced by methods necessitating pasteurization;
…. health authorities are still issuing cease-and-desist orders to the herdshares they find, with little that the herdshare can do to “fight back.” Some herdshares are hesitant to send test samples to a lab due to fear of being reported to health authorities. Many herdshares operate in isolation, without that support network that is taken for granted in other agricultural sectors, without even knowing about other herdshares in the same community.
Currently, if a health authority finds about a herdshare, they will likely issue a cease-and-desist order to it. Some health authorities operate on a “complaint driven” basis, but anyone can phone or email a environmental health officer and complain that raw milk is being distributed. An example is the complaint filed with the Fraser Health Authority against the Home on the Range cowshare in 2008 – the complaint was filed by the Ministry of Agriculture. In another case, someone saw two herdshare members privately transfer a jar of milk from one of their cars to another in a parking lot of a local farmers’ market – the market itself was reported to the health authority. In another case, a former herdshare member with a grudge reported the herdshare. This is an excerpt from a sample cease-and-desist letter received by a herdshare last summer:
Herdsharing is unofficially legalized in other provinces, where raw milk is not classified as being a health hazard, and in California (see the California Herdshare Association website). Herdsharing is officially legalized in places such as Colorado, where specific laws set out conditions for herdsharing (see the Raw Milk Association of Colorado website). The issue is being discussed of legalizing it in B.C.
So, let’s get the discussion going, about what you as a herdshare community member want to see for the future:
- Do you want to see laws changed in order to legalize consumer access to raw milk via herdsharing?
- If herdsharing were legalized, what do you as members of the “raw milk community” wish to see?
- What do you think of the requirements placed on raw milk producers in areas such as Washington state where raw milk is officially legalized: licensing, registration, training, testing standards, or certification?
- Would it benefit your herdshare to be able to advertise for new members? To promote your product?
- Do you have concerns about the financial costs? Prohibitory regulation?
- What would your ideal model be?
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