Raw Milk Freedom Riders Take on Chicago

Raw Milk Activists at the Illinois BorderOn Thursday, the Raw Milk "Freedom Riders" rode again. In November, they crossed the Pennsylvania border into Maryland in protest against federal law 21 CFR § 1240.61, which prohibits interstate commerce of raw milk for human consumption.

Yesterday, a group of 17 food rights activists carried 70 gallons of raw milk over the border from Wisconsin to deliver the milk, along with batches of homemade cookies, to milk drinkers on the other side of the border.

History of a Food Right

Raw milk is milk in its unprocessed form, that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Pasteurization was introduced in the late 1800s, and the first law requiring pasteurization wasn't passed until 1908, in Chicago.

The law being protested, the federal ban on interstate commerce of raw milk for human consumption, was originally passed in 1987. In 2010, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claiming that these federal regulations are unconstitutional and outside of the FDA's statutory authority. The FDA issued a response to the suit that has riled food rights activists across the country:

"There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food" (page 25).

"There is no 'deeply rooted' historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds" (page 26).

"Plaintiffs' assertion of a 'fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families' is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish" (page 26).

Raw Milk Freedom Rides to Chicago

Raw Milk Freedom SpeakersThe Raw Milk Freedom Riders, protesting these regulations and the anti-food rights stance of the FDA, stopped just over the Wisconsin-Illinois border, but neither the FDA nor local law enforcement appeared to arrest any of them.

They continued on to Chicago's Independence Park, where a rally of over 100 people awaited them. Speakers included former Libertarian Party presidential nominee Michael Badnarik, Canadian dairy farmer Michael Schmidt, blogger David Gumpert and food rights activists Max Kane and Liz Reitzig.

The rally at Independence Park was watched closely by park security, but was allowed to proceed unimpeded.

Schmidt, who went on hunger strike earlier this year in response to a court ruling against him and against the distribution of raw milk in Canada, said, "Over the last two years, I myself really experienced ... deeply the whole infringement of our liberty. ... The focus is so much on prosecuting farmers, and there's a reason for that. The reason is that there is less than two percent left who are actually providing the food, less than two percent which is capable and able to grow food. So it is easy to take them out."

Gumpert, who follows raw milk news very closely on his blog, called for raw milk supporters to "push for our local politicians to pass food sovereignty laws" and "put ourselves on the line, and that may mean things like even riding shotgun with trucks that are delivering food from our own farmers. That may mean putting our bodies in the way of agents and officers who are raiding farms."

In a toast with a raised glass of raw milk, Schmidt closed the rally by saying, "The glass of raw milk has become the symbol of the food rights movement. We should be proud of it. Here's to the food rights movement."

When will the Freedom Riders ride again? They plan to continue to fight what they see as unjust regulation in states across the country. Expect another ride in January 2012.


Equating your ability to drink raw milk to the fight for equality in the south where original Freedom Riders died. Great PR move.

Thank you for this critique. I definitely respect and appreciate that you took the time to make this very valid criticism. I think the self-named group likely considers it an homage to the courageous men and women who risked their lives and who perished fighting for the promises of the Fourteenth Amendment to be made real in the face of violent and systemic racism in the South. It is certainly true that the current challenges facing those seeking to preserve a way of life on small dairy farms and those seeking access to raw milk are not equivalent to the original Freedom Riders. Thank you for pointing out the limits of the comparison. The farmers are facing significant risks and retribution for providing milk the way people have drunk or eaten it for thousands of years, but you are right to point out that the situations are not the same, which PRWatch should have done in repeating the moniker in order to give full context to the term and due credit to its blood-stained history. The reference was not intended to give offense but I believe as part of tribute to that greatly risky and valiant struggle. The farmers are risking the loss of their freedom and their livelihood for their principles and I believe that is deeply honorable. Lisa Graves

The freedom riders may not be risking as much as the original freedom riders. But pasteurised milk causes more death and suffering than war or racism. And there are more blacks suffering the pains of racism today than there were before Lincoln.

So war and racism are preferable to pasteurized milk? Even when you don't have to drink milk at all if you don't want to? Nice one. And there are many, many more people of every description in the U.S. today than there were before Lincoln, so of course there are more blacks, and many are on the receiving end of racism, but none are slaves.

"Dear writer. My name is Max Kane. Some people, just like me, depend on raw milk and other non-government approved foods, as a mean to suppress the chronic, day to day symptoms of incurable Crohn's disease, which include (bloody diarrhea, over developed anal hemorrhoids, bleeding fishers, sever abdominal pain, internal bleeding ulcers, over sensitive gut, crippling joint pain, nausea, bloody vomit, night sweats, insomnia, uncontrollable weight loss, psoriasis and premature death. Perhaps this testimony will give you a deeper understanding of the "why" behind the raw milk freedom rider movement. Or perhaps not. But either way, I wish you a healthy and happy life."

I can’t believe in 2012 the federal government is raiding Amish farmers at gunpoint all over a basic human right to eat natural food.. In Maryland, they force taxpayers to pay for abortions, but God forbid we want the same milk our grandparents drank. Have a blessed day, Teresa Feds shut down Amish farm for selling fresh milk By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times Monday, February 13, 2012 The FDA won its two-year fight to shut down an Amish farmer who was selling fresh raw milk to eager consumers in the Washington, D.C., region after a judge this month banned Daniel Allgyer from selling his milk across state lines and he told his customers he would shut down his farm altogether. The decision has enraged Mr. Allgyer’s supporters, some of whom have been buying from him for six years and say the government is interfering with their parental rights to feed their children. But the Food and Drug Administration, which launched a full investigation complete with a 5 a.m. surprise inspection and a straw-purchase sting operation against Mr. Allgyer’s Rainbow Acres Farm, said unpasteurized milk is unsafe and it was exercising its due authority to stop sales of the milk from one state to another. Adding to Mr. Allgyer’s troubles, Judge Lawrence F. Stengel said that if the farmer is found to violate the law again, he will have to pay the FDA’s costs for investigating and prosecuting him. His customers are wary of talking publicly, fearing the FDA will come after them. “I can’t believe in 2012 the federal government is raiding Amish farmers at gunpoint all over a basic human right to eat natural food,” said one of them, who asked not to be named but received weekly shipments of eggs, milk, honey and butter from Rainbow Acres, a farm near Lancaster, Pa. “In Maryland, they force taxpayers to pay for abortions, but God forbid we want the same milk our grandparents drank.” The FDA, though, said the judge made the right call in halting Mr. Allgyer’s cross-border sales. “Intrastate sale of raw milk is allowed in Pennsylvania, and Mr. Allgyer had previously received a warning letter advising him that interstate sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal,” agency spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said. Neither the FDA nor the Justice Department, which pursued the legal case, provided numbers to The Washington Times on the cost of the investigation and court fight. Fans of fresh milk, which they also call raw milk, attribute all kinds of health benefits to it, including better teeth and stronger immune systems. Raw milk is particularly popular among parents who want it for their children. In a unique twist, the movement unites people on the left and the right who argue that the federal government has no business controlling what people choose to consume. In a rally last year, they drank fresh milk in a park across Constitution Avenue from the Senate. But the FDA says it concluded, after extensive study along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that raw milk is never safer than pasteurized milk. It disputes those who say pasteurization — the process of heating food to kill harmful organisms — makes it less healthy. Many food-safety researchers say pasteurization, which became widespread in the 1920s and 1930s, dramatically reduced instances of milk-transmitted diseases such as typhoid fever and diphtheria. The FDA began looking into Mr. Allgyer’s operations in late 2009, when an investigator in the agency’s Baltimore office used aliases to sign up for a Yahoo user group made up of Rainbow Acres customers. The investigator placed orders for fresh milk and had it delivered to private residences in Maryland, where it was picked up and documented as evidence in the case. By crossing state lines, the milk became part of interstate commerce and thus subject to the FDA’s ban. At one point, FDA employees made a 5 a.m. visit to Mr. Allgyer’s farm. He turned them away, but not before they observed milk containers labeled for shipment to Maryland. After the FDA first took action, Mr. Allgyer changed his business model. He arranged to sell shares in the cows to his customers, arguing that they owned the milk and he was only transferring it to them. Judge Stengel called that deal “merely a subterfuge.” “The practical result of the arrangement is that consumers pay money to Mr. Allgyer and receive raw milk,” the judge wrote in a 13-page opinion. Grassfed On the Hill Buying Club has about 500 active members. Liz Reitzig, a mother who has become a raw-milk activist and is an organizer of the group, said the lawyers who pursued the case against Mr. Allgyer ought to “be ashamed.” “Many families are dependent on the milk for health reasons or nutritional needs, so a lot of people will be desperately trying to find another source now,” she said.

So the Government's trigger happy boys, THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMIN, says that the Farmers has unsafe non-pastuarized milk? We all know that this is bull-s. THE FDA approves thousands of medicines that has DEADLY SIDE EFFECTS and you are telling me that they are shutting down some milk farmers from selling fresh cow milk. And yes our parents and even most of our grandparents who were raised on fresh cow's milk lived well into their late 70's and 80's. So how bad could it REALLY be? This is about the bottom line dollar. They are making more money per gallon and some other farmers are mad! The FDA AND THE GOV feel threatened of losing TAX DOLLARS and the other farmers who are under FDA guidelines are not happy with the competition. They see their glass of milk now half empty, not half full.