Max Kane Interview

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Max Kane, Wisconsin raw milk activist, was interviewed by the Center for Media and Democracy's Food Rights Network on November 4th, 2011.


Food Rights Network Interviews Farm & Food Hero Max Kane


An audio version of the interview can be found here.


Below is the transcript of his interview:


Childhood Crohn's Disease

When I was ten years old, I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. I lived down in Chicago, Illinois at the time. And, for people who don't know what Crohn's Disease is, it's like a degenerative illness. It's a wasting disease where your digestion is extremely impaired and you have a hard time putting on weight, and you kind of waste away, and you look like one of the death camp prisoners from Nazi Germany or something like that. There's a lot of other symptoms, not just bad digestion. I mean, there's joint pain, eczema, severe eczema and a lot of other things that go with it. It's a very bad condition.

I lived with that for about ten years, all through my teen years, and then after high school, I became really motivated to try and find an answer, because the ten years that I lived with it prior, I was doing whatever the medical profession said, whether take this drug or go to see that doctor, and I wasn't getting any results at all. My health was just plummeting downhill in a negative direction.

Alternative Health Education

So, after high school, I started to reach out into more, you know, lifestyle type changes, reading the alternative realm type books. One of the books that I like to quote the most is a book called We Want to Live, by Aajonus Vonderplanitz. It talks about eating a raw food diet, and it talks about sleeping whenever it's necessary to help regenerate and rebuild your body. I took that kind of information and I ran with it, and a big part of it was raw milk. Not just raw milk but raw dairy in general-- raw butter, raw cheese, raw yogurts.

Finding and Sharing Raw Milk

So here I am living in Chicago at the time-- this is my mid-twenties-- and I don't know where to find these kinds of foods, because you can't just go to a grocery store and there they are. So I went on the internet and I started looking for organic goat farms-- certified organic goat farms. At the time, there was only three in the country. There was one in New York, there was one in Iowa, and one in Wisconsin. And Wisconsin was the closest to me, so I got a hold of the people and told them, you know, I want to get some raw goat milk every week. And they said, "Sure, come on up," because they're dairy farmers and, to them, drinking raw milk is normal, because 99% of all dairy farmers that I've ever met drink the milk right out of their bulk tank. So they said, "Sure, come on up." Plus, they were empathetic because of my health condition.

So I was driving up every week to bring back just a few gallons of raw goat milk to my self and my family in Chicago, and when you factored in all the gasoline and everything, you know, I was paying like $50 per gallon because it was about a nine hour roundtrip. So some of the local health care professionals like Dr. Mercola and some chiropractors heard about what I was doing, so they started sending me their patients, and saying can you get them some goat milk. And, you know, I guess one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was bringing milk back for a lot of different people besides myself.

Moving to Wisconsin

As time went on, I continued and was going up to this beautiful and pristine place in Wisconsin, where they have these springs in the valleys and these rolling hills, and I was coming back to Chicago every week. Six days a week in Chicago, one day a week up in this beautiful, you know, Garden of Eden type setting. And so, I guess, one day it was just, like, I had this epiphany, where I said, you know, why don't I live up there for, like, six days a week and just come down to Chicago for one day a week, and it just made a lot of sense.

So I ended up moving up to Viroqua, Wisconsin, and this is where I've been at for, like, past seven years now.

A Movement Grows

As things got escalated over the years, enforcements started happening against farmers, not just in Wisconsin but all around the country. And that's where it really came to my attention where the government was trying to stop farmers from either distributing this food or people from eating this food, or this food even being available, even to sick people who really needed it. That's when it became apparent to me that there was, like, a movement going, where it was important to have some kind of change be made.

So that's where I decided, you know, it was almost like a moral obligation, where I felt it was important for me to step up and to get involved in what was going on.

Relationships with Farmers and the Soil

I have very close and intimate relationships with all the farmers that my family gets foods from, and with all the farmers I've ever, you know, gotten food from and helped other people get food from and, you know, picked up food and brought it to them. The consumer's relationship with the farmer should be as intimate as the farmer's relationship is with the soil. The food chain is so important, and that intimacy is nothing less than vital, for us to be connected to what we eat, because the food that we eat ultimately makes up the body that we live in.

Bike Ride Across the Country for Raw Milk

I don't know exactly how I thought of, you know, riding a bike across the country, but somehow the idea came to me, and I thought, you know, if I did that and made a documentary about it, maybe it would help spread the word and bring the message forward to people who are, you know, unaware of raw milk and the health benefits, and how safe raw milk really is. I've always loved video, and I thought that, you know, making some kind of video-- video media-- about someone riding their bike across the country in favor of raw milk would help draw attention and bring awareness to the movement.

"Milk Men" Film

So the film "Milk Men" is post production. We still have a little bit more video to shoot, but not much. There isn't a release date, but when it comes out, I know that everyone's gonna be very happy with it.

Meeting the Movement

So while I was on the road, biking across the country-- the bike ride was supposed to take forty days, it ended up taking fifty days-- but the great thing was that I met tons of people all across the country, in every state, that were part of this idea that people, you know, own their own body and that people have the right to choose the food that they deem appropriate for their health.

And so as I got to meet more of these people, I got more involved in the movement as a whole, and then I started traveling around. I've been to many states, speaking on the subject and participating in rallies, because I think that's very important, that we show support if someone's in court, or if they just want to be out there and teach, and they're looking for someone to help educate people and articulate their personal experience in a way that will benefit the lives of other people.

Kane's Court Case

The Subpoena

So here I am, I come home from the bike ride, right? And it's-- I'm-- like ten days at home after being gone for fifty days, and the Sheriff's knocking on my door and serves me with a subpoena. And this is the first time I've ever been subpoenaed in my life, so it was like this new experience for me. That was my first taste-- my first personal taste-- of how severe this movement really is with regard to farm raids and with regards to government enforcement, telling people what they can and can't eat.

So I ended up appearing for a deposition to answer the questions on the subpoena, which-- they wanted to know who the farmers were that we were getting food from, who the members of the buying club were, and a lot of other invasive questions. And so I show up to the deposition, and the attorney general and I have a, you know-- We didn't really argue, but we were going back and forth, talking about the Constitution, and he ends up adjourning the deposition, and he never really posed any questions to me. He never tried to put me under oath. And he went straight to filing a civil suit against me in court, trying to get a court order compelling me to answer these questions.

Court Order/Contempt of Court

The judge basically said, "Go to jail or answer the questions." And we went to appeal the decision, so the judge suspended his own order until an appellate court reached a verdict, and then we lost on appeal, and now we're petitioning the Supreme Court. So the court-- the case is on petition with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin right now, and we're waiting to hear back from them, so the whole case is somewhat suspended until we hear whether or not they're even gonna consider the petition.

What that means is, if the court orders me to answer the questions and I don't, then I'll be held in contempt of court, which is basically, go to jail until you want to comply, which means you go to jail indefinitely.

Raw Milk Freedom Riders

I originally got involved with the Raw Milk Freedom Riders because I was participating on some conference calls where people were very concerned about what were gonna do to defend our right to choose healthy foods. And so people from around the country were on calls, trying to figure out, you know, what we're gonna do. What naturally evolved from that was that everyone decided that we need to move forward with civil disobedience and make a statement that way.

So when we were on the conference calls, I was kind of elected to be the one to call the FDA, to let them know that, you know, these events were going to happen, and the time and the place and all that. So I was the one that you saw on the video, that was calling John Sheehan and everyone else, to let them know that the Farm-- pardon, me, that the Raw Milk Freedom Riders were coming.

What Happened

I met the Raw Milk Freedom Riders right there at the state line, and the moms-- and there were some dads, too, so the parents-- came over the state line and we were all pulled over there at the sign that says, "Welcome to Maryland." And so we continued in the caravan-- I hopped in-- and we drove all the way to Silver Springs, Maryland, where the FDA National Headquarters is, and we continued to have a rally there. There was a few hundred people, there was media all over the place, there was about 12-15 SUVs of Homeland Security, at least half a dozen to probably closer to a dozen Sheriffs/police. They shut down the whole block. I don't know if they were expecting, you know, five or ten thousand people, but that's what it looked like they were expecting.

No one got arrested. It was a very peaceful demonstration, where people toasted raw milk, passed it around. We had milk and cookies, and people spoke out about their feelings with regard to the FDA enforcement against people's privacy rights, their right to choose their food.

So the FDA didn't show up to arrest anyone at the event, but later that day they put out kind of like a statement on their website that said that the FDA doesn't plan on enforcing the law that says you can't bring raw milk over state lines and distribute it to single individuals that want to do that for themselves, but they didn't really-- They were kind of vague, and they didn't really clarify exactly what they meant, so it very easily-- It's easy to assume that, as along as you bring raw milk to your friends, that, you know, you're going to be prosecuted with the other people. Like down in Georgia, they made them dump out their milk there. They went after the farmer in Pennsylvania, Dan Allgyer. And it's all because of the interstate ban against raw milk. Those were-- that was the law they used to justify their enforcement action.

Food Rights, Tradition and Heritage

This is a total rights issue for me. We have a country based on the proposition that each man, woman and child owns his or her own body. And if you own your own body, who decides what foods you eat?

Food has always been a tradition that was passed on, you know, from grandfather to parents to child to every generation. People all over the world, every culture, has different diets and different foods, and you know, different staples that kinda separates them apart from other parts of the world. It's like our heritage. And people have been getting food fresh from farms, you know, since the beginning of recorded history.

And now we're entering this era where that's becoming criminalized, where people who want to preserve their heritage, preserve their sovereignty-- sovereignty meaning they're the ones who make the final decision and have the final say as to where their food comes from-- they're being criminalized because they're trying to preserve their heritage. So there's, there's a balance between personal, individual rights, of the individual having the right to consume the food that they deem appropriate for their body, and then that's also, like, interwoven with this right to exercise your family's heritage, which, for many if not all of us, if you go back far enough in the blood line, would be to get food directly from farmers.

Revamping the Food System

This whole system we have of grocery stores and middlemen, it's relatively new if you look at the scope of history. And there's a lot of other relatively new things, like cancer and diabetes and all these other health problems that are congruent with the direction of the food system.

So if we're gonna have any chance at all to reverse our health as a people, we have to reverse the way we, you know, the way we buy our food, the way we raise our food. The whole food system needs to be revamped.


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