After a veto from Governor Tomblin last year, members of the Senate and the House have both taken up a bill that would allow West Virginians to consume raw milk. Members of the Senate passed the bill earlier this month on a vote of 22 to 12, and yesterday, Delegates cast their final votes.
Senate Bill 387 would allow West Virginians to enter herd-sharing agreements, or shared ownership of milk producing animals. After filing the agreements with the state Department of Agriculture, it would then be legal for all of the owners to drink the raw milk produced by the animal. The herd-sharers would also be required to meet state and federal standards set by the state veterinarian and report any instances of illnesses.
The bill would not allow the owners to sell or distribute the raw milk to anyone else.
Delegate Kelli Sobonya, a Republican from Cabell County stood in favor of the bill.
“There’s many products that remain legal in West Virginia that have presented true dangers," Sobonya noted, "Tobacco’s still legal, yet we keep talking about how dangerous it is; artificial sweeteners, certain legal drugs are dangerous. Ladies and gentlemen, this bill has been discussed for several years. Let’s get this out of the House, back to the Senate for a House message, let it go to the governor. If you’re against it, vote against it, but if you’re for liberty and food freedom, vote for it.”
Delegate Don Perdue is a Democrat from Wayne County and the former chair of the House Health Committee. He stood against the bill.
“We bring this down to suggest it’s an issue of freedom. It’s freedom we’re talking about here; freedom to do whatever you want. Well folks, that means we need to get rid of all the public health laws; smoking in buildings, we need to get rid of all of those; that’s what’s being said. And the troubling thing about that is; your right to be sick ends where my right to be healthy begins,” Perdue said.
House Health Committee Chair Joe Ellington spoke in support of the bill, citing other foods like raw meats, certain vegetables, and even water that could contain harmful bacteria.
“So you have to put in perspective as far as numbers. Yes there are potential serious infections, yes people can potentially die, but as I mentioned last year, most of the things we’re exposed to everyday can do the same thing,” Ellington explained.
Senate Bill 387 passed 88 to 11 and now goes to the governor for consideration.