Switzerland voted in a referendum against the ban on battery cages and mega stables

Action by a Swiss farmer against the ban on factory farming.AFP photo

A country without huge stables, without batteries and without armor. In short, a country without a vibrant industry. From the Dutch perspective, the scenario was not particularly realistic for the immediate future, but in Switzerland it was almost a reality. The Swiss voted in a referendum on Sunday to ban intensive livestock farming.

The idea of ​​enshrining “the welfare and dignity of animals” in the constitution is a so-called “people’s initiative”. It was designed by a coalition of small farmers, along with Greenpeace, various animal welfare organizations, the Swiss Green Party, and the Social Democrats. To force the referendum, they first had to collect 100,000 signatures. These types of grassroots initiatives usually have little chance of success.

This plan also failed: 63 percent of voters voted against it, as a large majority in Parliament and three of the four government parties advised in a government campaign. But despite the radical nature of the proposal, which means nothing less than an entirely new agricultural policy, 37 percent of the electorate voted, With a turnout of 51.7 percent.

Factory foreign farm animals

In concrete terms, the initiators wanted to stipulate in the constitution that the number of animals on each farm will decrease sharply, that the number of square meters per animal will increase significantly and that animals “have the right not to keep them intensively”. Meat and dairy from foreign farm animals will also be banned on Swiss supermarket shelves, if it is up to the initiators of the referendum.

This is practically impossible, say opponents. This also applies to all products that contain meat or dairy, such as pasta or chocolate. Opponents further point out that the import ban violates trade agreements with the European Union, to which Switzerland has adhered. As a result, a ban on factory farming would inadvertently increase imports of cheap foreign meat, dairy and eggs, because Swiss farmers would produce less and more expensively as a result of the mandatory downsizing.

“Switzerland does not have a planting plant at all,” Markus Reiter, president of the conservative Swiss Farmers Association, says for weeks at every open mic he encounters. This is not entirely true, but the Swiss have stricter legislation on animal welfare than most EU countries, including the Netherlands. For example, Swiss farmers are allowed to raise no more than 1,500 pigs per farm and 27,000 broilers. The Dutch pig farmer has on average more than that, that is 3400 and the average poultry breeder in the Netherlands has about 80 thousand chicks.

Swiss Selfie

Agricultural issues are heating up Swiss minds above average, as was also shown earlier in the lead-up to a referendum on restricting pesticide use. Even then, large farms confronted small organic farmers, some of whom were threatened with death for their support of the referendum. In the end, the population rejected this proposal by a narrow majority.

Although the Swiss earn only 1 percent of GDP from agriculture and livestock, many seem to place great value on a self-image filled with alpine pastures, cows and cheese. Sueddeutsche Zeitung End of this week. In informational materials about the referendum, the government thus asserts that Switzerland is indeed one of the countries with “the most stringent and detailed regulations regarding animal welfare”.

The brochure also proudly states that 80 percent of Swiss farm animals are free-range on pasture. but according to Neue Zürcher Zeitung This number is the result of a particularly innovative calculation method by the Department of Agriculture, which classifies animals according to weight and size. The larger and heavier the animal, the greater its weight in stats. Because of this, a farmer who locks up a thousand chickens in a battery-powered cage, but has two cows outside, can still claim that nearly 50 percent of his animals are frolicking happily on the mountain slopes.

The Swiss also voted on Sunday for a plan to raise the retirement age for women to 65, just as for men. This motion in the wake of the trench won with 50.6 percent of the vote.

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