TORONTO - A dairy farmer determined to defend his right to provide raw milk urged Ontario's top court Wednesday to recognize that laws around pasteurization were outdated, unjust and infringed on basic freedoms.

Michael Schmidt made his stand during a hearing before Ontario's Court of Appeal, as supporters packed two courtrooms to witness the latest step in a long-running legal battle between the 59-year-old farmer and the government.

"The law needs to evolve and the pasteurization law seems not to evolve," he said. "Is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms really living in this country or are we fighting a losing battle."

The Ontario government maintains raw milk poses a "significant public health risk."

But Schmidt has repeatedly said he believes raw milk is not only safe, but offers health benefits as well. The government's ban on its sale and distribution, he argued, is an infringement of fundamental freedoms.

"I'm not asking at all that everybody has to drink raw milk," he said. "The government is saying that everyone has to drink pasteurized milk and that is, I think, a severe problem in this legislation. We are getting force-fed something people don't want."

The farmer from the Ontario municipality of West Grey was originally charged in 1994, and later convicted, of selling or distributing unpasteurized milk.

It's not illegal for farmers to drink raw milk from their own cows, so a few years later Schmidt devised a so-called "cow share" program, through which his approximately 150 customers bought ownership in a cow or herd.

Schmidt believes the program is legal under a concept known as agistment, where he cares for livestock owned by other people, who are then entitled to that animal's products.

But the Crown argues Schmidt is still the one with legal title to the cows, as there is no evidence his customers "enjoy the benefit" of ownership except for a right to consume milk and cheese products for a fee.

As a result, Schmidt is still illegally distributing raw milk, the Crown says.

A provincial court judge convicted Schmidt in 2011 of 13 charges under the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Milk Act and fined him $9,150. That decision overturned an earlier one, in which another judge had acquitted Schmidt.

Schdmit's lawyer made two major arguments at his appeal Wednesday — the first made a case that cow shares are not illegal while the second pointed out that the Charter of Rights includes "the right of individuals to make decisions pertaining to their own bodies and their own health."

"Schmidt and consumers of raw milk are freely choosing to ingest raw milk to improve their health," Schmidt's lawyer Derek From said outside court. "Our ultimate goal is to have cow shares recognized as legal in Canada."

Ontario's lawyers countered that the law infringes neither Schmidt's nor his customers' charter rights.

Crown lawyer Shannon Chace further argued that Schmidt's cow share program, although characterized as a private contractual program, was a risk to public health.

"The private cow share agreement is not in fact a private agreement at all," she told the court. "There are very serious public ramifications...I can choose not to consume raw milk but can nevertheless contract an illness."

Experts had testified for the Crown at Schmidt's trial that raw milk is a known source of food-borne illnesses to which pregnant women, elderly people and others with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

Schdmit's lawyer pointed out, however, that if raw milk were significantly dangerous, its consumption would clearly be banned altogether.

"Unpasteurized milk has not been banned and if it is inherently unsafe in all circumstances, it would have been banned," he said.

Rather than allowing a "black market" of raw milk to proliferate by upholding the ban on its sale, Schmidt's lawyer asked the court to deliver a ruling which would support regulation of unpasteurized milk.

He also pointed out that some items with known health risks, like cigarettes, were allowed to be sold.

"We have scientific evidence that smoking kills you," he said. "With raw milk, there are no bodies...the standard that government is applying in this legislation is not rational."

The laws around pasteurization were too broad, said Schmidt's lawyer, suggesting that under such a sweeping interpretation of "distribution" it would be illegal for one co-owner of a cow to hand a glass of milk to another co-owner.

The Crown argued that Schmidt would be found guilty even under the most restrictive interpretation of the law.

The panel of judges who heard Schmidt's appeal will deliver their decision at a later date.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Eddie Huang

    New York City-based chef Eddie Huang has been controversial since he first gained acclaim for his bao eatery, BaoHaus. The marijuana-loving, fouth-mouthed chef has slagged fellow toques the likes of <a href="">Marcus Samuelsson</a> and <a href="">David Chang</a>, and his recent book, "Fresh Off the Boat," is <a href="">already turning heads</a>. On the positive side, at least Huang can <a href="">take a bad review</a> from Sam Sifton, even if he did say reading it <a href="">felt like being yelled at by his dad</a>.

  • Anthony Bourdain

    Everything we could say about Anthony Bourdain, you've likely heard already. The drug-addict-turned-executive-chef-turned-television-star has a sharp tongue when it comes to his likes and dislikes, the latter which often include <a href="">other celebrity chefs</a>. His antics have gained him a fervent following, but a good share of criticism, as well -- some people are <a href="">getting tired of his shtick</a>.

  • Gordon Ramsay

    Oh, Gordon Ramsay. These days, you're the chef everyone loves to hate. Ramsay's <a href="">in-your-face and often controversial personality</a> is the prime appeal of television programs in which he stars, "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares," and has earned Ramsay a fearsome reputation worldwide.

  • Guy Fieri

    Need we remind you of New York Times critic <a href="">Pete Wells's epic takedown of Guy Fieri's recently opened restaurant</a> in Times Square? We thought not. Fieri is a popular target of scorn for foodies, but his restaurant is still in business -- you do the math. He still landed on <a href="">GQ's list of least influential people for 2012</a>, though.

  • Rachael Ray

    Rachael Ray's cutesy catchphrases like "yum-o!" and "delish!" are ripe for mockery -- <a href="">Anthony Bourdain knows what we're talking about</a> -- but the Food Network star remains one of the channel's most popular draws.

  • Paula Deen

    Paula Deen needs no introduction. The butter-loving Southern cook stirred up controversy when she announced her diagnosis of diabetes -- just as she revealed an <a href="">endorsement deal for a diabetes drug</a>. Throw in a <a href="">sexual harassment lawsuit</a>, and you've got one polarizing chef. Despite all, she still has a devoted fan base.

  • Marco Pierre White

    Marco Pierre White was once called the first <em>enfant terrible</em> of the food world -- in his first moments of celebrity chefdom, White developed a reputation for <a href="">ejecting customers from his restaurants when they asked for salt or pepper</a>. Granted, he's calmed down quite a bit in recent years -- he even shells for <a href="">Knorr boullion</a> now.

  • Sandra Lee

    Sandra Lee may be the <a href="">first girlfriend of New York state</a> and a Food Network star to boot, but not everyone is a fan of Lee's semi-homemade brand of cookery. Anthony Bourdain once called her Kwanzaa cake -- a frosted angel food cake with a can of apple-pie filling in the center garnished with corn nuts and pumpkin seeds -- a <a href="">“crime against humanity.”</a> We won't go that far, but one does have to wonder what she was thinking.

  • Nadia Giosia

    Nadia Giosia, the namesake and host of "Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen," takes a punk approach to cooking -- but not everyone is on board. Nadia boasts a rabid fan base, but some are <a href="">turned off by her pseudo hardcore shtick</a>.

  • Todd English

    Todd English has enjoyed celebrity chef status since arriving on the scene in the late 1980s. He's been lauded for several of his restaurants -- and named in <a href="">numerous lawsuits</a>. He's also landed in the tabloids thanks to his <a href="">rocky personal life</a>, and he recently was accused of <a href="">failing to deliver on a promise to a reality show contestant on Food Network program "Chef Wanted."</a>

  • Jamie Oliver

    Jamie Oliver's bid for healthier school lunches has <a href="">earned him praise</a> as well as <a href="">criticism</a>. At least he has a <a href="">sense of humor</a> about it.