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Mon Dec 31, 2012, 05:47 PM

Farmer cites religious issues in raw milk case

Charges against Loganville farmer draw national attention

By Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel
Dec. 30, 2012

A Sauk County farmer headed for trial on criminal charges related to the sale of raw milk has rejected a plea bargain that could have kept him out of jail and has raised religious freedom objections in the case.

Vernon Hershberger of Loganville was scheduled for trial Jan. 7 on charges that include distributing milk from his "Grazin' Acres" dairy farm without a milk producer's license, operating a retail food establishment and dairy plant without licenses, and violating a hold order placed on his dairy products after a raid on his farm.

It's a case that has become a rallying point for the raw milk movement nationwide, with Hershberger's supporters hoping that an acquittal could set a precedent for other farmers who have run into trouble for distributing raw, unpasteurized dairy products to the public.

But the trial has been postponed because state Department of Justice officials said they needed more time to address a religious-freedom issue raised by Hershberger.

http://www.jsonline.com/business/farmer-cites-religious-issues-in-raw-milk-case-5786cbh-185236052.html

27 replies, 1976 views

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Arrow 27 replies Author Time Post
Reply Farmer cites religious issues in raw milk case (Original post)
rug Dec 2012 OP
Moonwalk Dec 2012 #1
rug Dec 2012 #2
JoeyT Dec 2012 #4
rug Dec 2012 #5
JoeyT Dec 2012 #6
cleanhippie Dec 2012 #8
tama Dec 2012 #9
skepticscott Jan 2013 #11
Moonwalk Jan 2013 #13
skepticscott Jan 2013 #14
tama Jan 2013 #15
Moonwalk Jan 2013 #16
tama Jan 2013 #17
Moonwalk Jan 2013 #18
tama Jan 2013 #19
Moonwalk Jan 2013 #20
tama Jan 2013 #21
Moonwalk Jan 2013 #22
tama Jan 2013 #23
okasha Jan 2013 #24
tama Jan 2013 #25
Moonwalk Jan 2013 #26
tama Jan 2013 #27
tama Dec 2012 #10
JoeyT Jan 2013 #12
cbayer Dec 2012 #3
tama Dec 2012 #7

Response to rug (Original post)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 06:15 PM

1. Warning: NO, the raw-milk is not the religious issue...though the title and quote seem to imply that

Read the article. It's about the farmer being licensed to sell raw milk. This former Amish farmer insists that it would go against his religious conviction to plead guilty to being wrong in distributing this milk without a license. The legal battle is becoming a platform for raw milk, but it's the license that's the issue. No one is arguing that their religion requires them to drink or sell raw milk.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #1)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 06:26 PM

2. For clarity:

The former member of the Amish community argues that his religious beliefs did not allow him to contest the holding order placed against his dairy products because he would have been required to file a complaint against the state and become an aggressor in the case against him.

"I do not believe in taking someone to court. I basically believe in working things out among ourselves," Hershberger said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel last week.

- snip -

The farmer said the plea bargain would have gone against his conscience.

"My religious beliefs would not allow me to accept that because the Bible calls for me to share my food with fellow brothers and sisters. As long as I am not hurting anybody doing that, I cannot in good conscience" accept the offer.

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Response to rug (Reply #2)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 07:55 PM

4. That doesn't seem like much of an argument, though.

He wasn't sharing anything in the way the bible commands him to share, unless someone gave him a printout of Supply Side Jesus and he thought it was real.

If we allowed religious exemptions for commerce, half the country would be Rastafarian.

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Response to JoeyT (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 08:48 PM

5. This isn't that far afield from the Amish exemption from Social Security.

His claim is that he is not selling to the public but that this is a cooperative. Therefore, a license doesn't apply. Then, on religious grounds, his claim that he cannot litigate the license requirement lest he "become an aggressor in the case against him."

Hershberger contends that no such license exists. He says people who do business with his farm are members of a private food club who lease the cows and work on the farm in exchange for the right to get raw milk products.

"The members get the food that rightfully belongs to them, and it's been that way for the last 10 years," Hershberger said. "I feel very strongly that individual families should have the right to choose what they want to eat."


He looks pretty stubborn.

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Response to rug (Reply #5)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 09:38 PM

6. He's not a very strict Amish dude,

since that's an internet satellite behind him. Unless I'm mistaken about what Amish is, which is entirely possible.

Or maybe he is strict. That looks like one of the older slower pre-Gen4 dishes.

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Response to JoeyT (Reply #6)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 11:03 PM

8. Like most, he is strict about his beliefs when he needs to be...

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Response to JoeyT (Reply #6)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 11:07 PM

9. "The former member of the Amish community"

 

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Response to tama (Reply #9)

Tue Jan 1, 2013, 12:10 AM

11. Who apparently still chooses to adhere to

some arbitrary tenets of the religious community, but not others. Guess when he can get the NFL Network and a bunch of HD movie channels, all that god stuff seems pretty silly.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #11)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 02:20 AM

13. Actually, he could be Mennonite by definition. They're similar to the Amish in beliefs....

...including pacifism, but they have no edicts against the use of electricity or technology. But that's a moot point; as he is a "former" Amish we can't really say he's adhering to arbitrary tenets. If he said he was Amish but had the satellite dish we could say that, but "former" means he disagreed with the Amish and is no longer of that religion.

Freedom of religion doesn't apply only to those who are part of an organized religion; it applies as well to those holding to their own personal, individual religion, including adhering to whatever tenants one finds morally and spiritually right. However, arguing that one can avoid a law on the books for the public safety of others (never mind to oneself) because doing so goes against one's religion doesn't fly. The Native Americans might or might not be granted the right to take magic mushrooms in religious rituals, but that doesn't mean they can't sell or even give said mushrooms away to others, even if their religion says they should.

The thing is, this guy could "share" that raw milk if he got a license. It's not that he can't do it period--just that he can't do it without a license--and yes, that might relate to sales and business, but as this is raw milk, I suspect that license is more about public safety than about money exchanged. About making sure he's doing all he can to make sure the raw milk won't kill anyone. There is that Oliver Wendell Holmes saying: "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." Likewise here. This man's religious right to do without a license in producing raw milk ends when he shares that milk and, thus, puts others at risk because he might not be doing enough to make sure the raw milk is safe.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #13)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 06:18 AM

14. Very possibly

since they don't eschew television. But since he WAS once Amish, that still leaves the question of why he has abandoned some rather arbitrary tenets of his former religious practice and not others.

And yes, when he says he's not hurting anybody, that's only true until it isn't. He may be taking an unacceptable risk of hurting others, even if it hasn't happened yet.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #14)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 08:55 AM

15. We hurt others all the time

 

when we buy stuff from supermarket. Sweatshops, child labor, environmental destruction, treatment of animals by meat and dairy industry, etc etc... our system of capitalistic production and consumerism is based on hurting others.

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Response to tama (Reply #15)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 03:23 PM

16. True, but two wrongs don't make a right. The sins we commit thanks to our system of consumerism...

...in general doesn't excuse this man's potential hurt against others in this particular instance. And the focus of the discussion is on whether he can excuse his potential to hurt others with his religious stance, not whether he can excuse it because he is simply doing what everyone else is doing.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #16)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 03:52 PM

17. Of course not.

 

But that looks a happy cow in the picture above, compared to pictures of industrial production.

We use our sense of proportion and "gut feeling" etc. to follow the voice of conscience and to cause less suffering, and sometimes call that "religion", when socially conditioned to do so. In this case there are people who want to cause less actual suffering in terms of milk production, despite the extra effort and difficulty of overcoming obstacles of bureaucratic control. And couple commentators who see nothing but a "potential" hurt.

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Response to tama (Reply #17)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 04:44 PM

18. Again, this has nothing to do with whether the cow is happy or not. He CAN sell the raw milk...

...from that happy cow. The license doesn't demand he make the milk production cruel or horrible to the animal. Just that he make sure the raw milk production and storage and such is as safe as possible.

His gut feelings, yours or mine are irrelevant--there are people who know, KNOW how to make sure raw milk is as safe as possible. And if this man is really following his conscience, his faith, then he should do what they ask and earn that license. Because if anyone dies because of his milk, he'd never be able to forgive himself.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #18)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 05:36 PM

19. Sell to who?

 

And at whose terms?

I don't know how centralized and corporate controlled dairy business is in US, very much so here in Finland and rest of EU single market, and with lot of red tape that makes it virtually impossible for small independent producers who want to treat cows well to make a living. But from this wiki quote I can guess that the situation there is not much better:

"Milk prices collapsed in 2009. Senator Bernie Sanders accused Dean Foods of controlling 40% of the country's milk market. He has requested the United States Department of Justice to pursue an anti-trust investigation. Dean Foods says it buys 15% of the country's raw milk. In 2011, a federal judge approved a settlement of $30 million to 9,000 farmers in the Northeast."

I also drink raw milk when available, just like my mother and father and so many generations before. Here producers can sell only very very limited amount, just a bucket or couple, directly from the farm, and otherwise are forced to sell to the big monopolies so that milk travels hundreds if not thousands of miles from farm to table and tummy, which burns a huge amount of fossil fuels etc.

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Response to tama (Reply #19)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 11:30 AM

20. But this is a whole different issue. It's not about him protesting that he's being forced to sell...

...his milk to big monopolies. It's about him protesting having to get a license to "share" his raw milk with the presumed co-owners of the cows.

The milk situation in the U.S. is certainly a scandal, but once again, this is one farmer simply trying to hand out raw milk. And he can do so. If he has a license to do so. I may be wrong, but I take license to be like that of a restaurant license. You don't get a restaurant license in the U.S. until the health inspector has gone through and made sure meat and fish and such is stored at the proper temperatures so it doesn't go bad and people get sick. That surfaces are clean, dishes washed, that there's no rodent or insect infestations. YOU would not want to eat at such a place, and so that license means a lot. It means the person feeding you isn't being sloppy--and isn't going to poison you through negligence.

Raw milk may be wonderful, but it's no joke. I, personally, want to know the farmer who is handing over the bucket to me has taken every precaution to make sure it's not contaminated with E. coli.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #20)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 12:23 PM

21. So,

 

what are the actual conditions for getting a license? And can they be met with "plain and simple" way of living with cows? What's the cost of meeting the bureaucratic requirements?

If milk situation in US is scandal, how does that scandal manifest at the level of bureaucratic requirements of licenced production - it seems reasonable to assume that the requirements and control measures are tuned for high tech big corporate level production.

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Response to tama (Reply #21)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 01:11 PM

22. That I don't know--but from what I'm reading in this article, again, the farmer is NOT...

...protesting that getting a license would be somehow arduous and he objects to how he'd have to treat his cows or it would cost him too much and he couldn't stay in business, etc. He's protesting that his religion = sharing and therefore he's not "selling" and therefore doesn't need a license. So you tell me. Is he really up in arms against the evil bureaucracy trying to mess up his homey, raw-milk give-away or is does he simply want to avoid meeting health standards which might require extra work and, yes, extra money?

And what do you mean by "plain and simple"? Unless you define that, there's no way to know if the conditions of the license can be met "plain and simple."

The problem here is that this isn't about a bake sale where requiring a license (and, alas, some ridiculous places do) would be silly. Raw milk can make people sick. Can send them to the hospital. Has, in the past and in the present, killed people. Is "plain and simple" really something that should be said about raw milk sales? I don't think it should be an arduous or bureaucratic nightmarish to get such a license, but I don't think it should be so easy that any one with a cow and a bucket can sell the raw milk from their front porch like lemonade from a lemonade stand.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #22)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 01:40 PM

23. As for Amish and state

 

found this article. Even if the farmer is not anymore member of the community, that's his cultural upbringing and education: http://www.libertymagazine.org/index.php?id=1221

And as for raw milk, I was raised on raw milk from my mothers tit. I've also been part of "dairy industry" when my ex got our second son, and had so much milk coming that she decided to sell it to the needy, and then broke her arm so I had to milk her...

So from my personal experience I know that simple home measures are enough to keep the raw human milk that is given to human babies clean also when it's stored and distributed. And there is no hint or indication anywhere in that article that the farmer and his food club are not following those common sense measures.

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Response to tama (Reply #23)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 04:36 PM

24. I've drunk a lot of raw milk, too.

Also milked the cows. The greatest health hazard my cousins and I encountered was avoiding being kicked by one lady whose aim was dead-on and who gave no "tells" that she was about to try to knock you into orbit.

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Response to okasha (Reply #24)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 06:35 PM

25. Mothers and Fathers

 

Uncles and Aunts, all our relations. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin.

Here's to wishing for nice surprises, including those that get us knocked out of our orbits.

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Response to tama (Reply #23)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 07:24 PM

26. There is no hint in the article that he IS following those common sense measures either. Once again-

--I presume the whole idea of the license is so that health and safety organizations can *affirm* that such farmers *are* following common sense measures, and so can be trusted by the public.

Maybe if you saw how he runs things you'd be pleased, or maybe you'd be horrified. The license, presumably, takes out the guess work; it lets us know for certain that he is following common sense measures to protect those who drink his milk from any potential dangers.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #26)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 07:33 PM

27. Control

 

It's been a long time since I've learned that it's better to trust than to fear and control. And that's just me and not talking about absolutes, just general attitude.

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Response to JoeyT (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 11:09 PM

10. From what I hear

 

Rastafarians tend to follow quite strict diet of what they consider natural food.

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Response to tama (Reply #10)

Tue Jan 1, 2013, 12:11 AM

12. Yeah, I've heard that too.

Of course Christ said to help the poor and love your neighbor but that doesn't slow the Religious Right down a bit. Even if they don't pick and choose what parts to follow, everyone at least chooses which parts of their religion to emphasize.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 07:04 PM

3. There's a raw milk movement? Pasteur is probably rolling in this grave.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #3)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 11:02 PM

7. More about

 

homogenization than the process bearing the name of Pasteur. Here in Finland we have now also in some supermarkets milk that is not homogenized and has the natural fat content that we've been coevolved to consume. Not homogenized but pasteurized .

And of course about local food without obsessive bureaucratic control, as in this case.

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