February 22, 2010

Government vs. Raw Milk

An Associated Press report issued this morning calls attention to an important battle taking place here in the United States between dairy farmers that produce and sell unpasteurized milk, claiming it is safe, and government authorities who maintain pasteurization is the only way to assure destruction of pathogenic microorganisms that might be present. 

According to the report, which bears a Des Moines, Iowa tagline, debate about the health advantages and risks of raw milk is spilling into statehouses and courtrooms countrywide as raw milk advocates push to make unpasteurized dairy products easier for consumers to purchase.

I am glad to see this relatively little-known debate receiving the national attention it

deserves. We can expect that in the hours and days to follow a number of news venues will be picking up the AP report and writing on this matter, which makes this the perfect time for me to share my thoughts on the subject.

Avid raw milk drinkers swear by its taste and health benefits. Some believe consuming it cures asthma, prevents ear infections in children, strengthens bones and the immune system, and improves the functioning of those with autism. Indeed, a study published in the June 2006 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that 4,767 children in rural England who lived on farms and drank unpasteurized milk had significantly fewer symptoms of asthma, hay fever and eczema than their pasteurized milk drinking peers. A follow-up European study of nearly 15,000 children published in the May 2007 issue of Clinical and Experimental Allergy found children who drank unpasteurized milk were less likely to have asthma and hay fever.
However, the FDA claims health risks associated with drinking raw milk far outweigh any benefits. It strongly advises against consuming it and, under its commerce clause powers, has banned its interstate transport and sale. Laws among states differ greatly. Some have banned its sale, other states allow it but strictly for non-human (animal) consumption, while others allow its sale to the public at large. But even where legal, raw milk dairy farmers are harassed by the FDA and local authorities, who are increasingly committed to overseeing and regulating production. 
I recently attended a lecture and book signing by journalist David Gumpert, who writes on matters of health. His most recent book The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights provides an engaging and informative account of the ongoing clash between the government and dairy farmers. Blog follower Joseph Heckman, Ph.D., a professor of soil science at Rutgers University, hosted the lecture and alerted me to it. I am glad he did! Mr. Gumpert spoke about many aspects of this debate, including the overall safety of unpasteurized milk, presenting a wealth of statistics to prove his point. He has become an important spokesperson for the raw milk movement, asserting that people be allowed to return to enjoying this natural drink. 
Pasteurization was introduced by French chemist Louis Pasteur in the mid-19th century and thereafter became the norm for milk. Prior to this, drinking milk posed serious health hazards and many became ill. Conditions on dairy farms were often atrocious. Cows were kept under filthy conditions, water was contaminated and there was no refrigeration. It’s no wonder milk-borne illnesses were common. With widespread implementation of pasteurization, milk and its various products were made quite safe. Pasteurization largely, but not always, prevents food-borne sickness, ranging from mild food poisoning to serious illnesses caused by contaminants such as listeria, salmonella and E. coli. 
No one argues the assertion that pasteurization was an enormous advance for public health, or that it remains valuable. However, healthy cows raised in a clean environment don’t produce contaminated milk, and refrigeration keeps it fresh. Today’s dairy farmers who produce unpasteurized milk take pride in their clean facilities and in their first-rate healthy cows, certified free of disease.
Following Mr. Gumpert’s lecture, I had the opportunity to speak from the audience about the similarity between the current situation facing these milk producers and Wilhelm Reich’s ordeal. I spoke about Reich’s fate at the hands of the FDA. Here was a brilliant scientist who died in prison because his natural health products and information were transported across state lines. I also said that what happened to Reich and what these dairy farmers are now up against can be understood in the context of what Reich discovered and termed the “emotional plague,” a force that drives authorities to exert control over the lives of others for their own good.
One might expect that honorable people with good intentions, on both sides of the table, could somehow resolve the raw milk issue without battling in court. After all, people consume raw or undercooked products all the time, as with sushi, clams and oysters on the half shell, beef carpaccio, or simply a rare burger. None of these are banned. But common sense won’t prevail. Nor is it a question of needing more information, more facts pro or con, to settle the matter. 
I contend no matter how much proof of safety is presented or what additional information is provided, the government authorities will never relent in their efforts to end sales of unpasteurized milk. If farmers, brave or foolish enough, elect to violate the inevitable court decisions in favor of the FDA, I fear they will be imprisoned as Reich was. Here’s why. The safety of unpasteurized milk and the best interest of the public are not the sole or even primary reason for the government’s attack. It is its stated reason, and because the safety issue does have validity and is partly right, the more insidious underlying aspect of the emotional plague remains hidden. 
What we know from Reich is that the emotional plague has infiltrated society’s institutions. Many who have gotten themselves into positions of authority over others are afflicted with this illness. The emotional plague was so named by Reich to indicate the condition’s psychological roots and contagious nature. The principal element of the plague is a compulsion to control the natural behavior of others. Those suffering with the plague cannot tolerate actions that don’t conform to their rigid ways of thinking. When people choose to live as they see fit, especially when it is in accord with healthy, natural functioning, those afflicted with the plague experience intense anxiety. They cannot tolerate the feelings that rise up in them when people are happy and enjoying life naturally. Their thinking and actions are always extremely well-rationalized as being for the common good. Remarkably, they are entirely unaware that their true motive is not the best interest of others. They do not see their irrationality or their inability to act fairly on matters that effect them emotionally.
Unlike the neurotic who suffers inwardly without troubling others, “plaguey” people deal with their emotional upset by attempting to control its source, the behavior of others, which stirs up in them an intense longing for living the natural life that they themselves cannot live. But they just don’t see it. In their minds they must stop “dangerous” activities and behaviors, never realizing their prohibitive actions are not really for the good of others but rather to make themselves feel better by putting an end to the behavior that makes them intensely anxious. Controlling others makes plague-ridden individuals feel better, at least temporarily.
The emotional plague is often found in individuals who are bright and endowed with a high level of energy. This combination enables them to rise through the ranks into positions of authority. As officials with power, they are now really in a position to exert control over others. It is no mistake they have gotten themselves into these positions. Their livelihoods serve as a defensive mechanism to ward off their intense anxiety. It cannot be over-emphasized that plague-ridden individuals and the institutions they control have no insight into their destructive behavior. They believe, in their heart of hearts, what they are doing is right and necessary. There is always an element of truth that justifies their control over others. It is this truth--the partly right--that creates much confusion and allows others, on the sidelines, to so easily get caught up in the plague’s activity. In the case of unpasteurized milk, the assertion of a health hazard causes many decent and openminded people to side with the FDA. Notwithstanding, there may often be a sense something is not right in what the government is doing, but good people can’t place a finger on it. Try as they might, they won’t find what that “something” is because the driving force behind the FDA’s attack is the unseen hand of the emotional plague. 
Reich wrote in Character Analysis (1933) that the plague “has to give way when confronted, clearly and uncompromisingly, with rational thinking and the natural feeling for life.” Was he naive or did he think this way because he had not yet, himself, experienced its full power? Whatever led him to believe as he did in those early days, I am certain that he did not hold the same opinion in 1957, when confined to his prison cell. Reich was not only imprisoned, but on orders of the FDA, his books were burned. When the “little guy” comes up against “big brother” plague wielding its enormous power, the odds of succeeding in a battle are slim at best. 
Nevertheless the emotional plague can and must be fought. The battle over raw milk is an important one. If it isn’t won, we will all be on the slippery slope, raw milk drinkers or not. Increasing controls on the foods we eat and the health measures we choose are limitless. Next could be mandated irradiation of food, as Mr. Gumpert points out. 
Raw milk advocates have their work cut out for them. I believe they are doing the right thing by organizing demonstrations to gain media attention, especially outside of the courtrooms where dairy farmers are being prosecuted. I also think it important to continue to get the message out to consumers about the relative safety of unpasteurized milk in whatever ways possible. Given the expensive nature of court battles, funding for the legal defense of targeted farmers will have to come from individuals and organizations that support natural health and wellness, free from government control. Finally, I offer that raw milk advocates consider using the adjective “unpasteurized” as opposed to “raw,” which seems to me could conjure up the unpleasant image of bloody meat. Referring to the milk as “organic, unpasteurized, certified safe” or something along these lines may improve its overall image. 
I encourage my readers visit David Gumpert’s blog, The Complete Patient, and to read his book The Raw Milk Revolution. It might appear worlds apart from Wilhelm Reich’s The Sexual Revolution, but the overall conclusion is the same, which is that people should be free to live their own lives, naturally, as they choose. Reich wrote about sexual repression as it existed then in the late 1920s. He was on the side on the unthinkable, defending natural functioning and healthy sexuality. Both Reich and Mr. Gumpert assert people have the right to live as they wish and both, in their own way, support a return to nature, or more natural functioning. For Reich it was the enjoyment and health benefits of sex, free of moralism and societal restraint. For Mr. Gumpert it is for the enjoyment and health benefits of natural foods, free of government control. Both declare it a right and duty to resist the enforcement of unreasonable, unjustifiable laws.
For further exposition of the emotional plague as conceived by Reich, I recommend reading Chapter 12 of Wilhelm Reich’s Character Analysis and Chapter 13 of Elsworth F. Baker’s Man in the Trap.  The Complete Patient is located at www.thecompletepatient.com. Also, The Weston A. Price Foundation at www.westonaprice.org is an excellent source for information on nutrient-dense foods. One of their specific goals is the establishment of universal access to clean, certified and unpasteurized milk.


Markus said...

Please look also at the following blog regarding up to the minute updates on the raw milk battles

rich schulman said...

Dr. Schwartzman,
Having lived in California I was regular consumer of raw milk, raw butter and raw cottage cheese. Raw dairy products are legal in California though continually under attack by established dairy firms through the aegis of the state. Surprise inspections, legal suits every year grew laughable but never not disturbing. The combination of the medical industry with the dairy industry will prove a difficult foe, and expensive.
On a personnel note my father owned a small milk company and I have always taken an active interest in the dairy industry.
Like a lot of others I am convinced that raw dairy products can be safe besides tasting a lot better.( Never liked cottage cheese till I tried Alta Dena raw
cottage cheese.)
Rich schulman

Tom Ballman said...

It's most unfortunate as a consumer, one has to turn himself into an expert to resolve conflicts of what seemingly is a right to choose, not to mention the poducers, whom risk an abyss of legal woes should they unwaver.

As if the hampster wheel of life does not contain enough mine fields!

Thank you for the links and insight in this matter.

Ed Malek said...

A great article on the workings of the emotional plague (EP) and its motivations. I would like to point out another method that is used by
the EP to control others: through “political correctness” (PC). Certain thoughts-also deemed dangerous-are banished from public discourse. This has a number of unfortunate consequences. A) Pressing problems of the day such as race relations, unhealthy sexuality and alternative health care will forever be stuck in the dead-end world of mechanistic thinking. B) True freedom of expression from our biological core is not allowed, but must be repressed leading to irrational outbursts and other pathologies. C) From the repression of feelings and their ideas, the occular segment becomes even more armored leading to further loss of contact from objectivity (alienation). For example, if enough people can deny their natural feelings and convince each other that pregenital sexuality is equal to heterosexual genitality, this then leads the nation on the slippery rope of denying other natural facts. And we already have reached this point; by consciously blocking our perception, our thinking will also be imperiled.

To highlight the defective thinking as mentioned with regards to raw milk and health, just yesterday, the NY Times reported “…..on a promising gene-therapy breakthrough in the treatment on melanoma”, but later states that many tumors re-appeared, side effects were terrible, and the patients died. As long as disease is treated symptomatically and piecemeal (mechanism), instead of acknowledging the bio-energetic basis for most pathologies, tunnel vision “hope” like this will continue. The EP in high places in government and medicine do not tolerate an open exchange of ideas- ideas that would run counter to their held-fast paradigms. In universities, hospitals and the workplace, real solutions to problems remain begging due to this self-imposed thought control. What started out as natural sympathy to former societal victims of injustice has been hijacked into a movement akin to fascism where solidarity to a “social purpose” and punishment to non-believers is the rule.

Mary McGonigle-Martin said...

Everyone would like to believe that raw milk can be produced pathogen free if the cows are grass fed and simple sanitation procedures are followed. This is simply not true. Raw milk can be made "safer" to drink, but it can never be 100% safe. Something to think about before you feed it to your children.



Beth Carver Dishaw said...

In the 1950's and 1960's, my two brothers and I grew up drinking raw milk from our neighbor's farm. Every farm family in our rural community drank their own milk without incident. However, those farms were run differently from the factory farms of today in our county.
Our neighbors milked 30 or 40 cows who were pastured daily, kept in relatively clean barns and milked twice a day. These cows were healthy and represented a significant investment to the farmer in whose best interest it was to keep them healthy.
Factory farms in our area milk up to 1200 cows, several times a day. Free stall barns can be very dirty. The cows are not pastured, so they get no sunshine or fresh air. Most of the cows are viewed more as machines, to be used up and discarded when no longer producing adequately. Hormones/Drugs may be used to enhance production.
I would not hesitate to drink raw milk again or give it to my children or future grandchildren as long as I knew the source and the producer's farming practices because I feel the benefits would far outweigh the risks. I don't think that there are any 100% safe foods available to us, no matter how processed they are.




J. Heckman said...

The Raw Milk Revolution and The Sexual Revolution have much in common. Both real food and loving sexual relationships are vital to life’s pleasure and satisfaction. It is probably no accident then, that the phrase “Playing Russian roulette with your health” has been used in the campaigns for both "safe food" and "safe sex". While there may be a legitimate role for Public Health in teaching people how to produce high quality raw milk and how to practice responsible sexual hygiene, the Emotional Plague has instead twisted these rational health and safety campaigns into a campaign of fear and anxiety. And it is in this campaign that one finds the real objective of the emotional plague: the destruction of life's pleasure and satisfaction.

Ed Malek said...

I would like to follow-up on Drs Heckman and Schwartzman’s thoughts about the similarity of sexuality and raw milk: One of the definitions of "raw" according to Webster's Dictionary is “lacking covering, naked; having the surface abraded or chafed”. This brings to mind that the first "raw" milk for most humans was from their mother and naturally from the breast. As Reich has pointed out about the Emotional Plague, the underlying hatred of "natural life" has its roots in genital anxiety. Other examples alluded to in this blog include the circumcision fiasco which is really about hatred for the genital; and just as the safe-sex hysteria (AIDS) is also really about hatred for natural sexuality. In this respect, the raw milk debate is directly tied-in to all the cultural difficulties and anxieties around natural breast-feeding.

Dr. Schwartzman said...

Ed Malek makes important points regarding people’s fear and hatred of natural sexuality. Anything that stirs up unconscious sexual longing can stimulate an emotional plague reaction in those so disposed to the disease. Natural “raw” milk, natural uncircumcised penises, masturbation, natural sexual play among children, natural adolescent sex, and now all sex not made “safe,” must be brought under control--always for “good” purposes. The attack on raw milk is but one example of the plague, but it is a good one because it shows how the disease can present in an area apparently unrelated to sex.

Psychiatric Orgone Therapy

One of Wilhelm Reich’s most important and lasting contributions is a unique treatment for emotional disorders called psychiatric orgone therapy. Reich began as a psychoanalyst and was a member of Freud’s inner circle, but moved away from Freud’s method of free association when he developed a more effective verbal approach he called character analysis. Later he came to recognize the existence of a specific biologic energy in living organisms that he called “orgone,” which was coined from the word “organism.” With this discovery Reich was able to combine his verbal method with a technique that could normalize a person’s energy. The result was an entirely new approach to treating emotional disorders that he named orgone therapy.

Reich’s work with patients convinced him the disturbance in an individual’s energy state is caused by contractions in the body, especially in the musculature. He called these contractions “armor,” and established that they begin to develop in infancy as a way to block out emotionally painful events.

Past traumatic experiences are locked in the body--and they remain throughout life. How this happens is not fully understood, but there is no question that anxiety, anger and sadness, as well as the other upsetting feelings and emotions from childhood are not forgotten. Armor not only holds the disturbing past, causing it to remain alive but out of consciousness awareness, but it also affects how one feels and functions. Because living a natural healthy life depends upon whether a person’s energy flows freely or is blocked, the aim of psychiatric orgone therapy is to free up energy by breaking down armor. As these areas of holding dissolve, patients release their long buried feelings and emotions in the safety of the therapist’s office. They most usually surface spontaneously with the specific method Reich innovated, without the need of urging or any intervention on the part of the treating psychiatrist. However, occasionally, pressure needs to be applied to spastic muscles, or other techniques used to normalize the body. Because this treatment combines a verbal approach with a physical technique, it addresses both the mind and the body to bring about profound changes in how one thinks, feels and functions.

Today almost all people seeking treatment from a psychiatrist are given medications to reduce their symptoms. However, with psychiatric orgone therapy it is usual that patients, over time, find themselves able to wean themselves off medication and function without pharmacologic treatment. Reich’s therapy is unique in that it not only relieves distressing symptoms, but also does much more. It enables individuals to expand and feel pleasure, and better enjoy the many satisfactions life has to offer.

There are people who claim to practice some form of “Reichian” or “orgone” therapy, even though they have had no formal training in medicine or psychology. Often the techniques used by these self-proclaimed therapists have little or nothing to do with the very specific methods Reich developed and taught. The value of such therapies is questionable and may even harm those who get involved in them.

Qualified psychiatric orgone therapists have extensive training. They are physicians who have gone on to specialize in psychiatry and then in the very unique subspecialty of orgone therapy. They practice in much the same way as Reich did more than a half century ago. Ph.D. Psychologists who have had proper training can practice a form of orgone therapy safely and effectively. However, it is crucial they have supervision by a qualified psychiatric orgone therapist.