Swiss voters on the horns of a dilemma in referendum
SWITZERLAND will today take the electoral bull by the horns in a referendum pitting traditionalists against rivals they accuse of kowtowing to health and safety.
Millions in the Alpine country are due to vote in a referendum on whether farmers who let their cows keep their horns deserve special subsidies for maintaining the tradition.
A symbol of Swiss identity on a par with chocolate and cheese, the country’s cows are a source of national pride.
“When tourists go to Egypt they expect to see camels with humps, or in Africa elephants with tusks,” said Jürg Krattiger, tourist director for the Brig Simplon region. “Our guests expect to see cows with horns. It’s part of our image.”
Yet three quarters of Swiss cows are dehorned or genetically hornless.
‘When tourists go to Egypt they expect to see camels with humps. Our guests expect cows with horns’
Armin Capaul, 66, an anti-establishment farmer who mooted the idea for the referendum on preserving the “dignity of livestock” eight years ago, said hornless cows had low morale.
When he failed to secure political support for his campaign, he launched a petition in 2014 and collected the required 100,000 signatures to trigger a referendum.
He is asking for an annual subsidy of 190 Swiss francs (£150) per horned animal for farmers.
The government has warned the extra subsidy would drain up to 30 million francs from its three-billion-franc annual agricultural budget as horned cows are more dangerous, both for other animals and handlers, and require more space.
The latest poll says the vote close to call.