Dumb and dumber: the raw facts

The choices we make as adults are none of the government’s business ...

IT SEEMS astonishing that people choose to reject the very science that can save their lives, especially when it is to such tragic effect as the recent death of a toddler from consuming unpasteurised cow’s milk.

This must surely qualify as a classic illustration of evolution in action, as - without wishing to sound callous - the tragedy has clearly had an adverse effect on the reproductive effects of the poor child’s parents.

With the advent of new regulations in Victoria following this incident, the key question which now arises for regulators is: to what extent should people who make such poor choices be protected from themselves?

“Consuming raw milk comes near the top of the stupidity scale”

People holding the views which I expect are also held by the child’s parents are not unusual. Many are convinced, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that nature is benevolent and man’s intervention is inherently bad. They abhor modern agriculture with its pesticides, fertilisers and disinfectants. Technology like vaccines and fluoridation are viewed with suspicion, while organic food and remedies such as homeopathy are embraced.

Science obviously conflicts with such weak-mindedness. Pesticides save us from fungal, insect and nematode contamination of our food, which can make us sick. Together with fertilisers they also lower the cost of producing the food, so we are less likely to suffer illness due to nutritional deficiencies.

Relevant to the child who died is the fact that bacteria, which occur naturally just like arsenic, can be extremely dangerous. Controlling them through disinfection, whether by chemicals or pasteurisation, helps more of us to live longer. Indeed, there would be far fewer cases of food poisoning, which can be fatal, if organic food was abandoned and more food irradiated.

Consuming raw milk comes near the top of the stupidity scale as an example of ignoring evidence-based scientific processes. Organisms including campylobacter, leptospira, salmonella, cryptosporidia, E-coli and listeria - any one of which is capable of doing you in - are commonly present in milk despite tuberculosis and brucellosis no longer being a concern. Unless the milk is consumed the moment it leaves the cow, these bugs can multiply very quickly to create a veritable bacterial soup within a matter of hours.

Yet through either a lack of (readily available) information or a wilful decision to ignore it, some people still choose to flaunt science and tempt fate by drinking raw milk, eschewing vaccination and opting for ‘memory water’ over antibiotics.

But should we care if they do?

“The choices we make as adults are none of the government’s business so long as we don’t inflict the consequences on others”

The Darwin effect reigns in some countries, particularly France, and there are quite a few European countries as well as many states of America that allow the sale of raw milk products under certain conditions. The main demand is for the production of particular types of cheese, which advocates say tastes better than cheese made from pasteurised milk. But some drink it amid claims it has health benefits that are lacking in pasteurised milk. The US Food and Drug Administration disputes this.

Of course, those who reject science also tend to reject statistics. Thus when someone consumes raw milk over many years without adverse effects, this is used as proof that it is harmless. Even when someone dies under their nose, it is common for them to deny the cause.

I am among those who believe the choices we make as adults are none of the government’s business so long as we don’t inflict the consequences on others. That includes choices that, by objective standards, are unwise, such as smoking, playing dangerous sports, taking drugs and consuming raw milk.

There may be an argument for the government to warn us of the dangers, but in the end it should not seek to protect us from our poor choices. That is the role of our parents.

But what should the government do when the consequences of poor choices are inflicted on children? While we might agree that parents should be ultimately responsible for the welfare of their children, is it acceptable to allow children to die because their parents make ill-advised decisions? Fairly obviously, the answer is no, especially when government intervention does not seriously infringe other rights. An obvious option – which our regulators had already chosen – would be compelling those who sell raw milk to clearly label it as not suitable for human consumption, for example.

We do not need to allow children to die to be sure that the weak-minded shall not inherit the earth. But we also can’t regulate to enforce common sense – as Forrest Gump would say, stupid is as stupid does, and evolution will surely prevail.

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David Leyonhjelm

David Leyonhjelm

has worked in agribusiness for 30 years and is a Senator for NSW representing the Liberal Democrats.
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READER COMMENTS

Darryl
3/02/2015 6:45:21 AM

Mr Leyonhjelm, you might want to read the Victorian government agency documents a little closer. They do not refer to "the recent death of a toddler from consuming unpasteurised cow’s milk." They state two facts. 1. children became ill 2. the children had consumed raw milk. You're making a causation link in this article which the Vic govt agencies are careful not to make because such statements in advance of evidence may expose them to legal action.
Hoover
29/01/2015 10:12:11 PM

I am seriously having trouble fathoming the crap that has been written in this article. Mono cropping, fertilizers & pesticides have leached our soils of most of the macro nutrients essential for optimum plant health & optimum human health. Home grown organic vegetables & herbs & spices are the most nutrient dense source of vitamins and minerals for the human body. Homeopathy is a practice of healing thousands of years old & fluoride is responsible for more deaths worldwide than cancer.
farmed
24/01/2015 2:00:11 PM

you'll find the sale of "bath milk" is mostly driven by farmers sick of getting low returns from processors. the farmer is setting the price and not a pen pusher driven by corporate greed. if the farmer wasn't getting screwed by colesworth and the like then you would find "bath milk" wouldn't be around.
John Newton
23/01/2015 5:36:57 AM

Steering away from his extraordinary broad base support for chemicals in general (DDT anyone?) let's just examine the raw milk question. The height of stupidity? The Royal family drinks nothing but. Millions of French and Spanish people daily consume raw milk cheese. Leyonhjelm's own parents probably drank raw milk. Nuance is not something that the Senator for donkeys understands.
Bushie Bill
19/01/2015 2:55:06 PM

For those figures to mean anything at all there needs to be figures on the number of milk users in both categories, or to cut through that, expression in percentage terms. Did you THINK of that Mount Man? I guess I won't be shutting up, eh?
Garyth
18/01/2015 4:06:53 PM

In defence of germs, love your "enemy". Would not milk that has been pasteurised provides the same medium for bacteria to multiply as raw milk? The issue seems to be one of hygiene. There are many bacterial soups and fermentations that support health - e.g. miso, bokashi, cheese, yoghurt, leben, alcohol, pickles, tempeh. I offer the comparison - the general phobia towards all germs (micro-organisms) is as unfounded as the hysterical reaction to Islam due to the actions of a very small minority of extremists.
percy
18/01/2015 3:26:48 PM

We are not doing something right when we are over-protecting children from exposure to pathogens because they do not therefore build up any resistance. Eating dirt does not really harm children, provided that dirt is not highly contaminated, but gradually helps built resistance. People succumb to Deli-Belly because they have no immunity to the pathogens involved or no pathogen recognising mechanism within their bodies. If your children have not any immunity then certainly do not give them anything likely to kill them like stale (days old) raw milk.
stockman
17/01/2015 3:03:16 PM

Organic food has been proven to be no more nutritious, tastier or healthier than non organic-just more expensive. It's just a fad!!
Ed
16/01/2015 1:03:04 AM

Largest UK outbreak was 1999 in Cumbria affecting over 100 people, traced to pasteurised milk. Other high risk established to be rural population with direct contact with animals. I was a dairy farmer for 30 yrs and accepted health regulations as a necessary evil to prevent milk from killing my customers. I and my family always drank our own raw milk because I knew I was producing it safely but I wouldn't sell it to others because I had no control over how they kept it. I won regional prizes for milk quality and hygiene.
Mountain man
15/01/2015 3:44:37 PM

"According to the Cornell study performed on CDC data (Centre for disease control USA), there were 1100 illnesses caused by raw milk between 1973 and 2009. There were 422,000 illnesses caused by pasteurised milk. No deaths were recorded from raw milk and at least 50 deaths from pasteurised milk or pasteurised cheese" cite your facts and research bushy bill… Put up or shut up!
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Agribuzz with David LeyonhjelmCommentary, news and analysis with agribusiness consultant David Leyonhjelm. Email David at reclaimfreedom@gmail.com

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