Jurors Speak Out About Raw Milk Case

Raw Milk

Story at-a-glance -

  • Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger was charged with four criminal misdemeanors and acquitted of three of them for supplying raw milk to members of a private buying club
  • Hershberger admitted to violating a holding order on his food products, and was convicted on this count, but jurors were angered because they were told to only judge whether he violated the order – NOT whether the holding order was valid
  • Since Hershberger had been acquitted of the charges, it means that the state had no right to be barring Hershberger from accessing his food in the first place; the holding order was not valid
  • Several of the jurors were so moved by the case that they now want to join Hershberger’s buying club to be able to access raw milk for their families, noting that this is an issue of food freedom

By Dr. Mercola

Under the guise of protecting public health, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection targeted Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger, who was charged with four criminal misdemeanors for supplying a private buying club with raw milk and other fresh produce grown on his farm.

After the recent listeria outbreak from pasteurized cheese actually killed someone, it makes you wonder why raw dairy products are unfairly targeted even when sold under private contracts which is protected directly by the constitution.

State prosecutors tried to convict Hershberger for operating a retail food establishment, a dairy farm and a dairy plant without a license. However, since he only supplies food to paid members in a private buying club, he maintained that he was not subject to state food regulations.

The trial has become a symbol for the war being waged against raw milk in the US, where aggressive regulators are attacking small farmers producing wholesome raw food products for loyal customers.

Fortunately, the trial ended mostly favorably for Hershberger and made such an impact on the jurors that several are now interested in getting their own raw milk from Hershberger’s farm.

Jurors Angered Over Injustices Against Hershberger, Want to Join His Buyer’s Club

On May 25, Hershberger was acquitted of three charges of producing, processing and selling milk without state licenses. Then the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to revoke Hershberger’s bail and instead send him to jail for a fourth charge of violating a holding order.

This required that he not sell any food or milk from his store as a condition of his bail. Hershberger openly admitted that he had violated the order and broke seals to get into his coolers, in part to retrieve food to feed his own family.

As a result, jurors had no choice but to find him guilty of this charge, and he was sentenced to pay a $1,000 fine plus $513 in court costs. Hershberger avoided jail time and the maximum possible fine of $10,000, but several of the jurors noted that state prosecutors and the county judge withheld key information that would have exonerated him of even the hold-order charge.

Specifically, the jury only determined whether Hershberger had violated the hold order… not whether the holding order was valid. Since he had been acquitted of the charges that led to the holding order being placed, it means that the state had no right to be barring Hershberger from accessing his food in the first place.

Baraboo News Republic reported:1

'… we weren’t allowed to judge whether the holding order was valid,'” [juror Michele] Bollfrass-Hopp said. She added that since Hershberger was acquitted of the other charges that the state used as its basis for placing the holding order, the order itself should have been been a moot point. ‘You have to have common sense when you apply the law.’”

Several of the jurors were so moved by the case that they now want to join Hershberger’s buying club to be able to access raw milk for their families, noting that this is an issue of food freedom.

The trial was about freedom, Bollfrass-Hopp said. ‘That’s what it comes down to. It was about our freedom to choose the food that goes into our mouths. That was the underlying theme,’ she said.”2

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Regulators Are Worrying About the Wrong Kind of Milk…

If you believe that you have the right to choose what type of food you’re ‘allowed’ to purchase and eat, then you can understand just how much is at stake when state and federal regulators start attacking this very basic right.

Farmers and consumers should be able to engage in private agreements for food without regulatory oversight of any kind, yet states like Wisconsin have rather successfully disguised their attacks on freedom by claiming they are ‘protecting’ consumers from the villainous raw milk.

Assuming it is produced with high standards, however, raw milk is no more a threat to public health than sunshine or natural supplements (against which similar “public-safety” wars have been aged). You’re actually more likely to get sick from pasteurized milk than from raw milk!

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows there are about 412 confirmed cases of people getting ill from pasteurized milk each year, while only about 116 illnesses a year are linked to raw milk.3 And research by Dr. Ted Beals, MD, featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions,4 the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, shows that you are about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk!

That federal and state regulators are wasting time and resources prosecuting farmers supplying consenting customers with wholesome food is just outrageous, especially when they allow truly dangerous foods – like poultry, beef, pork and eggs raised on CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) – to be sold freely…

Dr. Beals wrote:5

"From the perspective of a national public health professional looking at an estimated total of 48 million foodborne illnesses each year [from all foods]… there is no rational justification to focus national attention on raw milk, which may be associated with an average of 42 illnesses maximum among the more than nine million people (about 0.0005 percent) who have chosen to drink milk in its fresh unprocessed form.”

Should You Really Be Afraid of Raw Milk?

The same regulators who defend the use of mercury in your dental fillings and fluoride in your drinking water want you to be afraid… very afraid… of a wholesome food known as raw milk.  I currently use about one pound of raw butter per week, and for those who have tasted the difference will never return to pasteurized products.

Cream, butter, yogurt, milk - it all tastes so significantly better in the raw form, there is an inherent recognition it is better for you. There are also well documented differences, raw milk is:

  • Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract
  • Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies)
  • Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer
  • Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible
  • Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live lactobacilli

Pasteurized milk is another food entirely, as the price of killing the pathogenic bacteria with pasteurization is that you also kill the good bacteria that helps digest milk, fight infection and make it such a nourishing food. Plus, proteins and enzymes are completely destroyed or denatured, made less digestible and less usable by your body. Not to mention, cows raised in CAFOs, from which most pasteurized milk comes, are NOT raised in a manner that makes their milk suitable for drinking raw (or at all, in my opinion).

CAFO cows are typically raised on high-protein, soy-based feeds instead of fresh green grass, and instead of free range grazing, they stand in cramped, manure-covered feed lots all day. These conditions are perfect for the proliferation of disease, and yes, this milk MUST be pasteurized in order for it to be safe to drink.

These cows also need antibiotics to keep them well, and some are also given genetically modified growth hormones to increase milk production. Needless to say, these hormones and antibiotics also wind up in the milk. Quite simply, the Big Dairy business depends on pasteurization, and that is why their powerful lobbyists will stop at nothing to persuade government agencies to keep raw milk bans in full force.

This Is About Much More Than Milk; Your Food Freedom Is at Stake

It’s encouraging that Mr. Hershberger’s trial had a mostly positive outcome, and was so overwhelmingly unjust that even the jurors are angry about it. Still, right now your food freedom is on the chopping block. In North Dakota, a new bill threatens to make herdshare illegal. In New Mexico, a bill has been introduced that would ban the sale of raw milk, while a proposed regulation in Illinois that is currently in the drafting stage would similarly restrict access to raw milk.

But this fight for food freedom isn’t just for those who love raw milk – it’s for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. So please, get involved! I urge you to embrace the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:

  1. Get informed: Visit www.farmtoconsumer.org or click here to sign up for action alerts.
  2. Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF. For a summary of FTCLDF’s activities in 2012, see this link.
  3. Support your local farmers: Buy from local farmers, not the industry that is working with the government to take away your freedoms.