Farmers suffer setback over cow horn subsidies

A bid to compensate farmers for not dehorning their cows failed to win support in parliament on Thursday.

Farmers suffer setback over cow horn subsidies
One of the few cows with horns. File photo: The Local

Members of the Council of States rejected the so-called horned cow initiative, which would give farmers financial support if they chose not to remove the horns from their cattle, the Swiss news agency SDA reported.

In Switzerland around nine out of ten cows no longer have horns, the agency reported at the time the initiative was launched last year.

The initiative“for the dignity of agricultural livestock” was brought by animal protection groups, the association for small and medium-sized farmers, Bio Suisse and ProSpecieRara.

Supporters argue that animals experience fear and pain when they are dehorned.

They want the government to offer monetary help to the owners of cows, bulls for breeding and goats with horns to offset the higher costs of maintaining the animals.

 “If nature has given cows horns, then they have the right to retain those horns,” argued Council of States member Anita Fetz of the Social Democratic Party.

But the government opposes the introduction of subsidies.

“The economic aspects need to be taken into account,” Agriculture Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann told the chamber of parliament.

A parliamentary economics commission has estimated the cost to the government at 30 million francs assuming ten percent of cattle and goats retain their horns.

The risk of injury among animals or to humans is the principal reason why most farmers dehorn their cattle.

The initiative still has to be debated in the larger parliamentary chamber, the National Council, before going to a nationwide vote.


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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