Wisconsin Judge Rules that there is not a “Fundamental Right to Produce and Consume” Foods of One’s Choice

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One of the legal battles across the country involves the use of unpasteurized milk. There is an outspoken minority that seeks to bypass state health laws by consuming unpasteurized milk.

Unpasteurized milk is probably richer in nutrients than pasteurized milk. Of course, unpasteurized milk can be laden with more than nutrients, including deadly microorganisms. Pasteurization has saved far more lives than an extra helping of nutrients from unpasteurized milk has provided.

When it comes to commerce, the Constitution does allow the government to intervene on behalf of the good of society. While the courts have consistently upheld this position, one Wisconsin judge has opened the door to a dangerous restriction on personal liberty not involving commerce.

Responding to a request for clarification on a prior ruling, Judge Patrick Fiedler informed the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund that eating foods produced by oneself is not a fundamental right.

At the heart of this particular case involves people who owned cows and tried to board them at a farm. Although the commercial relationship between the owner of the cow and owner of the land gives cause for the state to intervene, Fiedler takes his ruling into a more personal and troubling direction.

The plaintiffs in this case tried to make the argument that the right to privacy that allows the right to decline medical treatment, allow abortion, view pornography and engage in consensual sex translates into the right to “consume the food of his/her own choice.”

Fiedler refuses to consider the comparison between these rights to privacy because plaintiffs did not adequately explain why “those propositions support their argument.” That might be true, but he then proceeded to explain his ruling in clear and adamant terms.

  1. “no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;
  2. “no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;
  3. “no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to board their cow at the farm of a farmer;
  4. “no, the…Plaintiffs’ private contract does not fall outside the scope of the State’s police power;
  5. “no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice.”

Points three and four are reasonable and probably settle the argument for this case by themselves. Even point number one can be argued that a governmental jurisdiction can regulate property activity. Keeping a dairy cow in the backyard of a city lot can be prohibited by a city. However, point two and particularly point five open the possibility to a more severe limitation on personal rights.

A person growing a tomato plant in his or her home and choosing to eat that tomato would seem to have that right as clearly as a person choosing a partner for sex in a private home. Frightenly, Fiedler thinks otherwise.

The potential for a “garden police” to restrict the personal use and growing of vegetables may or may not be what Fiedler intends. Intention or not, Fiedler’s ruling opens the door that having a vegetable garden and eating the produce is a liberty resting at the whim of the state.

Producing and consuming one’s own foods should not be a crime, but after Fiedler’s ruling, it just might become one.

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