Skip to content

Cow-share coop continuing

Raw milk is still flowing on Haida Gwaii even after a recent BC Supreme Court ruling banned the sale of it in the province."After all the cows aren't taps and don't turn off when the going gets tough," say Lisa Graham Knight, who runs a small cow-share co-op from Maude Island.She isn't certain what the ruling will mean for her program. "I have not been contacted by Northern Health or the Ministry of Agriculture BC, but I am expecting an interruption, as this ruling was in the Supreme court," she told the Observer by email. The ruling came March 18 in a case involving a cow share co-op in Chilliwack called Home on the Range. The court ordered the owners of the facility to cease selling raw milk after the Fraser Health Authority sought an injunction under the Public Health Act, claiming the dairy was "willingly causing a health hazard." The ruling was a bit of a surprise to raw milk advocates as a similar case in January in Ontario found that a cow share co-op run by Michael Schmidt was allowable within Ontario's legislation. Home on the Range attempted to use that ruling as a precedent. But the court rejected it, saying "the question of whether the milk or milk products are distributed to the public or to members of the cow share is of no relevance to British Columbia."BC's public health law simply "prohibits a person from willingly causing a health hazard." Consuming raw or unpasteurized milk has been deemed a health risk by federal and provincial agencies. Health Canada says several different kinds of bacteria that could be found in raw milk, such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, have been linked to food-borne illness. Raw milk advocates state that pasteurization kills important nutrients that milk provides. BC Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper wrote in her judgment that the only remedy available to Home on the Range is to lobby for a change in the law.Ms Graham Knight started the Islands' Co-op after bringing two cows to the islands last summer. Members buy shares in the cows and she looks after them and brings the milk to a central place for members to pick up. Ms Graham Knight spent time on the Home on the Range farm before coming back to the islands.She says Home on the Range intends to appeal. In the meantime, she said share members will have to take more responsibility, as dairy owner Alice Jongerden is barred from filling the jugs and shipping them off to the 400 members."This is the time for the Co-op to shine in my opinion," she said.