Swiss vot­ers on the horns of a dilemma in ref­er­en­dum

The Sunday Telegraph - - World News - By Henry Sa­muel is too

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.

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