Gary and Dawn Oaks of Double O Farms in Verona, Kentucky, started a cow-share program in 2004 and have seen it grow to over 100 families. On March 6, 2006, just after noon, Gary pulled into St. Bernard’s Church parking lot in Cincinnati, Ohio to deliver milk to waiting shareholders. He proceeded to unlock the back door of his trailer of his vehicle when suddenly several policemen and agriculture officials from Kentucky and Ohio stormed up, blocking access to the shareholders. The police officers told the shareholders not to touch the milk—the “white liquid substance” as they called it—and refused to give identification when shareholders asked for it.
“Shut up, this doesn’t concern you,” was their response. When some of the shareholders tried to explain that this did concern them, that they were being denied access to the milk from their own cows, the response was the same—rude and intimidating.
The officials took Gary to the other side of the parking lot and would not let shareholders get close to him. When some shareholders tried to go to their cars, parked near Gary’s truck, the officers shouted “Get away from the trailer!” So the shareholders—mothers and children—continued to observe. Inside the car, the police browbeat Gary, attempting to make him confess that he was selling raw milk.
Gary then came out from one of the police cars and the shareholders started to walk toward him to offer support. His face was bright red and he looked ill. “Gary, you don’t have to tell them anything,” said one witness. “You don’t have to say a word until you talk to your lawyer.”
For her pains, one officer got close to her face and said, “Look lady, shut up.”
Gary was taken into another car while officials transferred the items from Gary’s trailer to official state vehicles. Witnesses could see that Gary looked very ill and on the point of collapse. But their requests to the police to call 911 were met with derision. “I am 911, so shut the hell up,” shouted one officer.
However, one shareholder did call 911 on her cell phone. By this time, Gary was lying down on the cold, wet cement next to a police car. The ambulance arrived a few minutes later and took Gary away.
All this over milk? Harpers reports that raids such as this are not unusual. The issue is the pasteurization of milk. Some say it, and feeding cattle on grain instead of grass, are at the root of many health problems. The pasteurization of milk, they say, means we are no longer exposed to some organisms that we would normally develop a natural immunity to. And the grain diet of cattle has health consequences for them. Some farmers have given away raw milk; others have established co-ops, where you own the cow and you thus get your own milk from the dairy–that was what was happening in the Kentucky raid.
Dom links to this story and notes,
I don’t feel strongly about the “right” to have and consume raw milk, but does law enforcement have to deploy the same tactics they use with drug smugglers and terrorists? It’s an effect of the militarization of police, I think.
More about the Kentucky case at Business Week. The author of that piece, David Gumpert, has more background here. He notes that the agencies involved have no apologies. They had in fact been engaging in illegal surveillance and searching of the premises prior to their attack in the church parking lot. He got this from an Ohio Department of Agricultural internal memo, which they happily provided him.
The memo performs an important public service: It lets us know what these public officials spend their time doing—following hardworking citizens around, monitoring their property, and then abusing them. It’s nice to know we’re being so well protected.