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FARMING

Stoat named Switzerland’s animal of the year

The stoat, or short-tailed weasel, has been chosen by Swiss nature organization Pro Natura as its animal of 2018.

Stoat named Switzerland’s animal of the year
Photo: MennoSchaefer/Depositphotos

The pint-sized predator is not endangered but its habitat in Swiss meadows is increasingly coming under pressure as agricultural land is lost to construction, Pro Natura said on its website.

The stoat, whose brown coat changes to a pure white in winter, is a skilled mouse catcher.

It is appreciated by farmers as it specializes in catching voles, which cause damage to meadows by the mounds they create.

But in many areas stoats are becoming rarer because of a lack of places to hide, meaning that the predator is itself increasingly preyed upon, Pro Natura said.

Hedgerows, boulders and tree branches are all important for the animal’s survival.

The nature protection organization said it had chosen the member of the weasel family as its animal of the year to highlight the need for a varied agricultural landscape offering a diversity of natural habitats.

This would not only ensure the preservation of the stoat but also many other animal and plant species.

The stoat and weasel, which are both native to Switzerland, are related to martens.

Stoats grow to between 20 and 30 centimetres in length and are amongst the world’s smallest predators. 

FARMING

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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