Zurich farmers’ manager denies ‘horse cruelty’

The director of the Zurich Farmers' Federation faces charges of animal cruelty and German customs fraud in the cross-border trade of horses.

Zurich farmers' manager denies 'horse cruelty'
Zurich Farmers' Federation director Ferdi Hodel. Photo: ZBV

Ferdi Hodel, a horse breeder from Volken in the canton of Zurich, will go to trial over the death of a show jumping horse he sold to a family in the canton in 2011, the SonntagsBlick newspaper reported online on Sunday.

The six-year-old horse turned out to be “useless” as a sport horse and would not be loaded into a van, the newspaper reported.

Hodel, 48, offered to train the horse so he would go into the van but the animal ended up with a back injury so severe that it had to be destroyed, according to the report.

The buyers sought a refund of their 40,000-franc purchase price for the force.

And investigators, after an inquiry that started last spring, have decided to prosecute Hodel, who denies the allegations, while his lawyer expects he will be acquitted.

SonntagsBlick said the municipal councillor, who is also a colonel in the Swiss army, faces customs fraud cases over horses from Germany allegedly sold to buyers in Switzerland for prices significantly higher than those declared to customs.

He also faces an allegation from the director of a sports horse management company in Fürth, Germany who claims Hodel sold her a horse advertised as healthy that turned out to be injured.

Hodel maintains his innocence in the cases.

Hans Frei, the president of the Zurich Farmers' Federation, said the organization has been informed about the allegations from the outset and has not reason to “mistrust” Hodel.

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Shredding of live chicks to be banned in Switzerland from January 2020

The crushing of live male chicks is at the centrepiece of a number of new animal protection regulations to be passed in the new year.

Shredding of live chicks to be banned in Switzerland from January 2020
Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

A number of other changes to mass agriculture will also come into effect in January, including tracking sheep and goats, as well as greater restrictions on pesticides and more assistance available to farmers in the instance of drought. 

In industrial farming across the globe, male chicks are typically shredded a day after birth as they do not lay eggs and are of little value in factory farms. 

Although the practice is relatively rare in Switzerland, it will be formally forbidden from January 2020. 

READ: Germany allows the shredding of live chicks to continue

The law does include some exceptions for smaller egg producers, however if male chicks are to be put to death, this must now be done with CO2 gas. 

The Swiss House of Representatives, when passing the law, called the practice “absurd”. 

Technology exists which can determine a chick’s sex just nine days into incubation. Although this is used in the United States, Germany and elsewhere, it is as yet not widespread in Switzerland. 

Pesticide restrictions, helicopters for thirsty cows

The Swiss government has made army helicopters available to transport water for cattle in the instance of drought. 

Switzerland’s central animal trafficking database will now also track sheep and goats, with the animals to be given tracking ear tags. 

Furthermore, there will be restrictions on certain pesticides, with the carcinogenic Chlorothalonil banned from January onwards. 

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