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FHA seeks contempt order at raw milk farm

The Fraser Health Authority has applied for a finding that the founder and the operator of a raw milk co-op in Chilliwack are in contempt of an earlier court injunction against distributing unpasteurized milk to its members.

Gordon Watson, co-founder of the “cowshare” on Prairie Central Road, is named in the application as a respondent in the court injunction granted in Dec. 2010, and Michael Schmidt, who took over operations of the farm following that court decision.

Schmidt is also the subject of similar court action in Ontario. A recent ruling there reversed an earlier court decision that allowed Schmidt’s raw milk operation to continue on the grounds that health and safety regulations were not violated by the “cowshare” arrangement in which the milk produced by the cow herd is consumed by members.

Schmidt has vowed to appeal the Ontario ruling.

Watson said he welcomes the prosecution because the case against him “is laughably thin.”

“My hurdle is to get a proper trial,” he said in an email to The Progress. “Only by getting a full-blown trial, will I be able to make full answer and defence.”

Watson contends that the case is not about health, but about protecting the interests of the dairy industry.

Last year, co-op co-founder Alice Jongerden was found in contempt of court for trying to get around the court injunction by distributing raw milk labelled “Not For Human Consumption” to cowshare members.

Schmidt took over operations of the farm after that ruling, but continued distributing raw milk - not as food but as a line of cosmetics called Enzymatic Bath Lotion.

Justice Nathan Smith said in his contempt ruling in the Jongerden case that the injunction is “clearly intended to prevent the distribution or raw milk in circumstances where human consumption is known to be a real and substantial possibility.”

The FHA’s application follows an Aug. 25 search warrant executed at the farm. Nothing was seized at the time, but photographs were taken and reviewed to determine if the permanent court injunction was being obeyed.

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