Swiss farmer launches campaign for government to protect animal horns

The initiative calls for the Swiss government to subsidise farmers who don't burn off their goats and cows' horns.

Swiss farmer launches campaign for government to protect animal horns
Armin Capaul, the campaign's organiser. Photo: Franziska Frutiger.

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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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