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.

David Leyonhjelm

David Leyonhjelm

has worked in agribusiness for 30 years and is a Senator for NSW representing the Liberal Democrats.
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Charles Darwin
12/01/2015 6:36:50 AM

I think u grant people too much intelligence David, we as a society bear the costs of bad decisions, not just the individual. What cost does the taxpayer bear for health care for smokers, or diabetes or depression for foods that come from a packet? Society needs to understand people need to be protected as we all pay the costs, its not as simple as individuals rights, its about using science/evidence to understand that something is wrong and we need to put measures in place to stop this cost to the rest of society. The consequences are inflicted upon the rest of us, that's the problem.
12/01/2015 7:45:47 AM

Damn I wish I could be as 'smart' as David. Naaahh, I will stick to being dumb and enjoy my raw milk.
Bushie Bill
12/01/2015 7:55:40 AM

And may you be protected from your own ignorance, Ausso.
12/01/2015 8:13:09 AM

My paternal grandmother ,dairy woman ,was 103 when she died,my mother died peacefully in her sleep,she was also a dairy woman,she was only 92.I am 75 this year still going strong and like the two aforementioned ladies have never drunk pasteurised milk.Must be doing something right!!!
12/01/2015 9:55:42 AM

Well, as I see it there is a large part of the population who want to pass all their responsibility on to "The Govt" so that they may whinge or receive a hand out from time to time. We should be responsible for our own actions and learn by our mistakes. Sometimes at awful cost.
12/01/2015 9:57:30 AM

Seems like the best solution is to get a goat for the backyard......oh bugger! they are all busy blogging on this site!
Bushie Bill
12/01/2015 9:58:57 AM

Some smokers live long lives and never get lung cancer or other health-damaging diseases. Are any of you halfwit brain-dead posters going to tell me smoking is not harmful to health? The answer probably sadly is yes, and probably it will be the same halfwit brain-dead posters defending raw milk.
12/01/2015 10:29:31 AM

Maybe our dumb and dumber author should take a good look at the hard cold facts - the child drank raw milk but it has not been proven that this caused the child's death. In fact the farm involved has been tested clean and healthy. Perhaps raw milk should be on the market legitimately with use-by and handling instructions adjusted according to its unpasteurised status. Sounds like a much safer way to sell it to me.
X Ag Socialist
12/01/2015 10:31:58 AM

Challenge your immunity by drinking raw milk if it doesn't kill you first up, you can live indefinitely.
12/01/2015 10:54:17 AM

Excuse the scepticism but this sounds like a rant from someone from a milk lobby group or a paid announcement anyway. For hundreds of years we drank raw milk and all of a sudden we are dying from it? I remember helping my father and grandfather with the milking and getting stuck into the milk and cream and never a problem. I think the senator should drop the smoke screen and look at the root cause. Could it be the extensive amount bovine additives that dairy farmers are forced to use to be competitive? What we put into our animals goes into us. What we do to our food we do to ourselves.
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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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