More than 90 per cent of all Swiss cows are dehorned, including 75 per cent of lactating young and milking females.
Cows are dehorned usually when they are two weeks old using an iron heated to 700 degrees Celsius. One in five cows suffers long term effects.
"The initiative aims to prevent the disappearance of cows and goats with horns," reads a press statement on the Hornkuh campaign's website.
The horns are a vital organ in the cow's composition. "They allow animals to communicate, regulate their temperature and perform body care," says the campaign's statement. Horns also help the animal's feeding and digestion – the organ continues to grow throughout an animal's life.
Goats have larger heads than cows but similar sized horns and react worse than cows to losing them. Complications after dehorning often lead to death for young goats, according to a recent study by the University of Bern.
Armin Capaul, Hornkuh's campaign organiser, says it is about maintaining the "dignity of the animals" as much as anything else.
Animals are usually dehorned to avoid them injuring each other when kept in cramped spaces. Capaul says the government must subsidise farmers to meet the higher costs of keeping their animals free range.
"The initiative is based on an incentive system: Anyone who keeps horns – adult cows, bulls or goats – should be fairly compensated for the extra effort," states the initiative. Dehorning is "unnecessary," it argues.
Armin Capaul. Photo: Esther Michel.
Implementing Capaul's initiative would cost 15 million francs annually (€13.2 million). Farmers would be paid 190 Swiss francs (€166) for each cow with horns and 38 Swiss francs (€33) for each goat.
For years, Capaul has been gathering the necessary signatures, reports Swiss daily 20 Minutes. The popular initiative will go to a vote on on November 25th.