A frustrated B.C. dairy farmer is adding heat to the debate over raw milk.
Alice Jongerden is launching a constitutional challenge arguing that it is her right to consume and distribute the product she believes tastes better and is more nutritional than its pasteurized counterpart.
"The reason that we're doing it is that I don't want to be forced to consume processed milk," said Ms. Jongerden of Chilliwack, shortly after the constitutional application was made.
The challenge, filed by her lawyer Jason Gratl, requests the section of the provincial public health act that bans the distribution of unlicensed and unpasteurized milk for human consumption be struck down.
Ms. Jongerden is also requesting that an injunction by the Fraser Health Authority against her be overturned. That injunction was upheld by Justice Miriam Gropper of the Supreme Court of B.C. last March.
In her ruling, Judge Gropper found that Ms. Jongerden was defying a 2008 cease and desist by packaging and distributing raw milk among a community of more than 400 cow shareholders throughout the Lower Mainland.
Judge Gropper wrote it wasn't up to her to decide if raw milk was hazardous - the health act didn't require that test. "The remedy for [Ms. Jongerden]is to convince the government to change the legislation."
Ms. Jongerden didn't appeal that ruling until now.
After continuing to distribute raw milk - a product considered dangerous by mainstream food scientists due to its proneness to pathogens like e. coli 0157:H7, salmonella, campylobacter and Listeria monocytogenes - the courts charged Ms. Jongerden with contempt of court and she resigned from Home on the Range, the cowshare.
She was found guilty on Dec. 2, but faced no penalty.
Ms. Jongerden planned on appealing the contempt verdict, but is now challenging the provincial legislation itself.
Throughout her legal battle, Ms. Jongerden has been supported by Ontario raw dairyman Michael Schmidt.
Mr. Schmidt won a similar case in Ontario following a series of raids and injunctions on his farm in Durham beginning in the 1990s. Last January a justice of the peace decided Mr. Schmidt's cow share was lawful and private.
The decision is currently under appeal.
Different rules apply to the B.C. public health act regarding public and private distribution, and Mr. Schmidt said it is time to create a national, regulated raw milk system with one set of rules.
"Unless we challenge the existing law we will end up with one court case after another," Mr. Schmidt said. "Milk is milk."
After Ms. Jongerden's resignation, Mr. Schmidt came to Chilliwack and took over Home on the Range renaming it Our Cows.