Aug 2011 02

By Nicole Powers

“This is really a civil rights issue.”
– Kristin Canty

America devotes an inordinate amount of resources to its wars on controlled substances; namely its wars on drugs – and raw milk. Yep, you read that right. The prohibition of alcohol may have ended in the US in 1933 with the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment, but it’s still alive and kicking when it comes to unpasteurized milk.

The retail sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal in the vast majority of states, and though some states do permit direct farm sales and/or herd shares, federal laws prohibit the sale and transport of raw milk across state lines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers unpasteurized milk or cream –– and any uncooked products made from it, such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream –– to be categorically unsafe. Their official line is that “raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family.”

However, by their own figures, a mere “800 people in the United States have gotten sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk since 1998.” When you compare those numbers to the statistics on alcohol and cigarettes – which can be bought legally in all 50 states – the government’s position on the sale of raw milk appears to be inconsistent to say the very least. And the discrimination against raw dairy is even more profound when the health benefits are taken into consideration. But while the fight to decriminalize other controlled substances grabs headlines and galvanizes support, few are even aware of the prohibition against real milk. Kristin Canty, a small farm advocate from Massachusetts, hopes to change that with her compelling new documentary, Farmageddon: The Unseen War on American Family Farms.

Canty didn’t set out to make a film, merely to heal her son, who suffered from asthma and severe allergies. When traditional medicine failed to help, she embarked on a voyage of discovery that led her to raw milk. While fighting to heal her sick child, she also had to fight the seemingly unreasonable and intransigent attitude our government has towards healthy-minded boutique farmers who produce this hard to come by commodity in the face of much adversity. Frustrated and angered by reports of raids, and shocked at the increasing ferocity of the persecution of those who were doing nothing more than producing fresh food, Canty was compelled to expose the truth. For her, it wasn’t just about the disparity in treatment between big agriculture (whose factory methods have actually been responsible for the majority of serious food scares in recent years) and the mom & pop organic and sustainable operations, but an issue of a mother’s right to choose healthy food.

Read our exclusive interview with Kristin Canty on

Following the multi-agency armed raid on Venice Beach, CA fresh food collective Rawesome, which resulted in 3 arrests (see story), there will be a series of special screenings of Farmageddon at the Electric Lodge cinema on Saturday, August 20 (see details). Proceeds will go to the Rawesome Community Fund.