Recently, I was treated to a fair bit of lefty schadenfreude when a story came out about how some Virginia lawmakers got sick after drinking raw, a.k.a. unpasteurized, milk. Many of the same people whom I follow seemed to have put this in the category of “stupid anti-science boneheadedness”, alongside creationists or flat-earthers. While I agree that drinking raw milk straight from the cow is going to be far more likely to give you the runs than pasteurized milk, I actually don’t think that it should be illegal.
Now I come from a very different perspective on this. While raw milk is heavily regulated in Italy, it is not illegal to drink or sell. I know many people, my grandmother and my boyfriend included, who were raised on raw milk, and simply prefer the taste. I can personally attest to the fact that unpasteurized milk tastes completely differently, and I can understand that if you have a certain taste from your childhood, drinking the pasteurized version just isn’t the same. Now they both of course boil the milk beforehand in order to kill the bacteria which can be found in it, but I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to drink it.
At this point, some naturalists I have spoken to interject to tell me that boiling it is not the point of raw milk, and that the whole point is to drink it as it is, because it is more nutritious that way. First of all, I find it amusing and very anthropocentric that any food could have a point, but anyway even if there are silly people around who think it is better to drink raw, unboiled milk, I still don’t think it should be banned.
Imagine that these same people started spreading the idea that eating raw chicken is the healthiest, most nutritious way to go. That would be silly, of course, but how annoyed would you be if, in response to their silliness, the sale of raw chicken was banned, and all chicken was sold precooked. You don’t even need to go to a hypothetical scenario: there are people who eat raw eggs, raw fish that has not been previously frozen, and vegans who don’t wash their vegetables because they think they can meet their B12 needs by eating dirt. All of these things bring with them an increased risk of food poisoning and parasitic infection. However, I still believe that the correct response is education, not to pass laws banning the sale of any raw or unwashed food.
This does not mean that dairy farmers should be required to meet strict regulations and supply supermarkets with raw milk. If there are not enough people who want to purchase raw milk then by all means, don’t sell it. However, this is the sentence from the article that jumped out at me the most:
West Virginia governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law a bill that makes it legal to drink (but not sell) raw milk throughout the state
That means that was illegal to even drink the stuff. Really? If a farmer milks his cow and drinks it what, that’s a crime?
I’m now in the very uncomfortable position of finding myself siding with Republicans…. who would have thought