According to a Wisconsin judge, a local farmer does not have the right to drink milk from his own cow. Excerpt from the judge’s September 9 ruling:

(1) Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;

(2) Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;

(3) Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to board their cow at the farm of a farmer;

(4) The Zinniker Plaintiffs’ private contract does not fall outside the scope of the States’ police power;

(5) Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice;

(6) DATCP [Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection] . . . had jurisdiction to regulate the Zinniker Plaintiffs’ conduct.

The story is more complicated than it seems. Two years ago, over 30 people got sick from drinking raw milk supposedly obtained from the Zinnikers. Does the state have the right to regulate the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk, as a matter of protecting public health, or doesn’t it? The court says it does. I’m inclined to agree that the state has this right, but I am not sure whether or not the state ought to exercise that right. We do not drink raw milk, but we have friends who do so, and who have suffered no ill health effects. Still, let me state that I am not an advocate of drinking raw milk (nor am I a discourager of it), and  — listen up! — I’m not going to let the comments thread here get sidetracked by a discussion on the pros and cons of raw milk. That’s not at issue here.

Here is the issue I want us to focus on: Leaving aside broader regulatory questions, what bothers me about this Wisconsin ruling is that the court has decided that people don’t have the right to own a cow and to consume milk from their own cow. Think of it! Mrs. Zinniker can abort her own child until the moment of delivery, and count on the state to protect her right to privacy. Mr. Zinniker can read sadomasochistic pornography in his dairy barn, if he wishes, and that is protected by his right to privacy.

But according to the state of Wisconsin, the Zinnikers cannot drink milk from their own cow, because there is no such thing as a “fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice.”

How far does this principle extend? If people don’t have the right to produce and consume the foods of their choice, does it follow that the state can forbid the cultivation of fruits and vegetables that come from any seeds other than those produced by Monsanto or other government-licensed agribusinesses? Even for private consumption? Do you have the right to eat eggs from your own chickens? According to this Wisconsin judge, you do not.

I can well appreciate that the state has an interest in preventing the sale of an agricultural product that makes people sick — though one may well wonder why authorities spend so much energy going after little guys like this dairy while giant meatpackers have far, far worse problems — but the judge in this case is making a startling statement about the sweep of the state’s powers to regulate food. This can’t be right.

(H/T: The Corner.)

UPDATE: Don’t miss this comment from Stef, in the comboxes:

The Wickard v. Filburn Supreme Court decision (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn) tells you everything you need to know about this.

Yes, they *can* tell you that you have no intrinsic right to milk from your own cow or goat. (We’re leaving aside the cowshare issue here.)

Yes, they can tell you that your backyard chickens, or garden, or rabbits, or whatever, are interfering with *interstate commerce* to the point that the gov’t might have to prohibit them.

They can apply that to other things, too – like home sewing or knitting.

If some conservatives get their way, and education is privatized, theoretically that would apply to home education as well.

Wickard has just sat there like a cancer all these decades, and now it’s decided to metastasize. (I have C-word privileges; I get to use cancer metaphors.)

Like the lady in Milwaukee, WI (Bridget Donovan) who got threatened by the Feds for owning an illegal lemon tree. And they took the tree, too – along with 1,000+ other citrus trees they’d been tracking for years (supposedly some scare of a citrus virus. Maybe? Maybe not.)

Links to the lemon tree story: http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/128715848.html

Summary: As the economy gets worse, expect more and more regulations on private homesteading activities.

Follow-up with Bridget Donovan, who says the above article was distorted by the Journal Sentinel, and that the Feds weren’t so nice: http://healthfreedoms.org/2011/09/15/usda-seizes-1000-personal-lemon-trees-threatens-fed-raid/

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