In BCHA’s 2014 Community Survey, 97.9% of respondents said that BCHA should advocate for changes to BC’s raw milk laws and 90.1% said that BCHA should be a “face” between legislators/regulators and the herdshare community. Since its incorporation in 2014, BCHA has been working hard to meet these goals, to act in the best interest of the herdshare community in BC, to provide the best representation possible for cowshares, goatshares, and sheepshares.
Dialogue between the herdshare community and the BC government actually began in 2003, when a raw milk consumer asked the BC government for policy direction on organizing a herdshare which would conform to B.C. laws. Dialogue has continued since, with herdshares asking the government, with little success, for direction in how to operate a herdshare within the law and for food safety training on milk production methods.
Hundreds of B.C. consumers have written to government, asking for the law to be changed to legalize raw milk, including the letter-writing efforts of members of the Society for Ethical Agriculture, a lower mainland livestock owner group, and nutrition education and letter writing campaigns by chapters of the Weston A. Price Foundation across the province.
Meetings with government began in earnest in 2011, in order to try to establish dialogue with decision-makers. A timeline of meetings is provided below so that the herdshare community of BC is provided with full information about the efforts that are taking place on their behalf. Details are also provided in the BCHA Newsletters and the 2016 Status Report. Details of the latest meetings will be in the next newsletter for members!
Meetings with the B.C. Government and Other Lobbying Efforts
- Meeting with Premier Christy Clark (Jackie Ingram, pre-BCHA). Outcome = the Premier’s support and a meeting scheduled with Agriculture Minister Don McRae.
- Meeting with Agriculture Minister Don McRae (Jackie Ingram, pre-BCHA). Outcome = Don’s support and his advice to organize a nonprofit society to represent the herdshare community in negotiations with government. Result = formation of the BC Herdshare Association.
- (June) BCHA incorporates in British Columbia under the Society Act as a nonprofit association.
- (July) BCHA requests a meeting with Health Minister Dr. Terry Lake. Dr. Lake is unable to meet, but BCHA is granted a meeting instead in November with his representatives.
- (Sept) BCHA brings Mark McAfee to B.C. to provide RAWMI training and do public education work regarding raw milk. Mark interviewed on CFAX Radio and gave a public lecture on raw milk to which Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, and Island Health staff were invited. Government offices were also offered the opportunity to meet with Mark at their convenience (result: all invitations declined, but Jackie was invited to meet with Minister Letnick).
- (Oct) BCHA meeting with Agriculture Minister Norman Letnick (spokesperson Jackie Ingram, similar with all other 2014/2015 meetings). Outcome: the Minister directs the raw milk community to “Find a way through it, not around it as you have been doing. No more loopholes!” (Note: part of a proposed “way through it” in the form of a draft regulation is posted here for community review)
- (Oct) BCHA writes to the Chief Medical Officers of the 5 regional health authorities to request meetings (no replies received).
- (Nov) BCHA meeting with the Spokesperson for the B.C. Dairy Association. Outcome = He expressed his support for raw milk legalization and stated that the BC Dairy Association would support legalization if herdshare farmers were trained in on-farm food safety systems such as CQM, so that outbreaks would not occur.
- (Nov) First meeting with Ministry of Health’s Executive Director of Health Protection and the Assistant Deputy Minister of Population and Public Health. Presented information about raw milk, laws in other jurisdictions, and evidence from our farmers’ test results showing that raw milk can be produced pathogen-free. Outcome = starting to build dialogue.
- (Dec) BCHA phone meeting with Deputy Minister of Agriculture.
- (Jan) Second meeting with Ministry of Health Executive Director of Health Protection and Assistant Deputy Minister of Population and Public Health. Outcome = continuing to build dialogue. Answered their questions and presented evidence of raw milk safety, consumer demand, and gave them a copy of Peggy Beals’ “Safe Handling” chapbook as an example of consumer education.
- BCHA phone meeting with Ministry of Agriculture’s Assistant Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Science, and Policy. Outcome = the next meeting is scheduled.
- (May) BCHA meeting with Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health Assistant Deputy Ministers. BCHA is told that their decision is to NOT legalize raw milk, as the “scientific consensus” is that legalization will result in more outbreaks. We are told that for legalization to happen, we must provide scientific evidence that legalization will NOT result in increased outbreak rates, but the BC government won’t provide funding to BC universities for this research. They also had received a legal opinion citing a 2014 Ontario court case which advised them that herdshares are “scams” covering up illegal raw milk sales (note: BCHA gave them a copy of a herdshare agreement package showing that this is not the situation in BC). Outcome: BCHA continues to train farmers and gather evidence of raw milk safety to address their concern about outbreaks, to present to government in future meetings.
- Requested a meeting with Ministry of Health staff to present new microbiological evidence and discuss related issues. Request for a meeting denied.
- (Feb) Requested a meeting with Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick. Result: No response before change in government.
- (Aug) Requested meetings with new NDP Ministers of Health and Agriculture. Result: Reply received from Ministry of Health that correspondence had been received, but no further response. Status: no response received from either Ministry other than Health acknowledges that the letter was received.
- (Nov) Second request sent for meetings with Ministers of Health and Agriculture or their staff. Status: no response received from Health.
- (Jan) BCHA receives an invitation to meet with Minister Popham. Minister Popham also invites Minister Dix to attend the meeting as well.
- (Feb) Agriculture Minister Lana Popham and staff meet with BCHA spokesperson Katharina Dittus, Raw Milk Institute Spokesperson Mark McAfee, plus a consultant microbiologist and a policy analyst (both being her constituents). See this article for full report.
- (Apr) BCHA writes to the Minister of Agriculture requesting permission for a follow-up meeting with her staff, in order to continue dialogue and present additional materials. Status: no response received.
- (May) As no reply to the letter was received, BCHA emails a Ministry of Agriculture staff person who was in attendance at the February meeting to ask for a further meeting. to continue discussion. Meeting request denied. BCHA spokesperson is directed to talk to Ministry of Health.
- (Oct) BCHA writes a third letter to Minister Dix.
- (Nov) Response received from a Ministry of Health spokesperson (not the Minister), stating that the Ministry has no plans to amend the Health Hazards Regulation because “The body of empirical evidence still links raw milk consumption to a disproportionately higher risk of foodborne illness compared to that of consuming pasteurized milk. The Ministry will, however, continue to monitor research into the safety of raw milk. “
- (Dec) BCHA replies to the Ministry of Health letter, respectfully requesting copies of the articles which make up this “body of empirical evidence” as our own PhD-level scientific consultants would like a chance to review it. Knowing that there are two types of raw milk, it would be useful to see which type of raw milk this pasteurized milk is being compared to.
- (Jan 2019). A Ministry of Health spokesperson replies with: “As mentioned in my previous email to you, the Ministry of Health (the Ministry) does not have plans to regulate the sale or distribution of raw milk in the province at this time. However, I continue to welcome any peer-reviewed research on raw milk that your organization, BC health authorities, the BC Centre for Disease Control, the federal government, other jurisdictions and academia can provide so that the Ministry can make informed decisions. Unfortunately, there is no other information that the Ministry can provide to you that relates to raw milk at this time. As a result, the Ministry can provide no further responses to your queries.“
Each meeting with government has brought us one step closer to legalization, as we work through the government’s conditions and answer their questions about raw milk safety. We hope to continue dialogue to move forward in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, toward creating a common goal which meets the needs of all parties involved (and a solution which is realistic and affordable for even the smallest herdshare!). Updates will be posted on our progress as they happen.
But no matter what BCHA does, legalization
will not happen unless voters of BC ask for it!
The law will not change without your support. Numbers matter! Please call or email your MLA and ask them for their support in changing raw milk laws in B.C. Ask them to please ask Minister Dix to amend the Public Health Act, Health Hazards Regulation, to exempt certified microdairy herdshares. Tell your MLA about the nutritional benefits of raw milk, and that raw milk is NOT a health hazard when it is safely produced. Check the B.C. Legislature’s “MLA Finder” site to get the name and contact information for your MLA.