FACTCHECK: Are Switzerland’s Greens banned from eating meat?

Switzerland’s Greens have sought to change perceptions that they’re a party focused on banning anything fun. But have they truly put restrictions on eating meat and drinking alcohol in place?

Are the Swiss Greens banning meat? Photo by Tim Toomey on Unsplash
Are the Swiss Greens banning meat? Photo by Tim Toomey on Unsplash

In late May, Swiss media reported that the Geneva chapter of the Green Party had attempted to ban its own representatives and staff from eating meat or drinking alcohol while acting in an official capacity. 

The measures were put to a vote. While the alcohol ban failed by a large majority, the ban on eating meat was upheld, 

Switzerland’s French-language Le Temps newspaper ran the headline ‘Last entrecôte for Green politicians’, while German-language tabloid Blick published an article with the title ‘Geneva Greens fight about the sausage’. 

While some Green politicians have spoken out publicly in favour of the move – Young Greens representative Sophie Desbiolles said the ban “was not radical, it makes sense” – others were unhappy about the negative publicity the ban had bought the party. 

Geneva Councilor Lisa Mazzone said that while a discussion about the environmental impact of meat was always welcome, “we shouldn’t turn it into a ban”.

“Every time the candidates are at an event, they would be forced to address this promise of waiver and make a political statement. That can be counterproductive”.

READ MORE: The 12 strange laws in Switzerland you need to know

Ban to be reconsidered

At a federal level, the Greens said they would not be extending the ban, saying it was better for individuals to make their own choices. 

Green President Balthasar Glättli said party events tend to be vegetarian, but not due to hard and fast rules. 

“Personally, I believe that the choice of menu is also a matter of personal responsibility for Green MPs” Glättli told Swiss media, saying he usually but not always chooses vegetarian food. 

Federal colleague Meret Schneider, who is a vegan, said such bans led to unwelcome publicity for the party which meant they were less able to carry out their actual duties. 

“It would be like banning Green MPs from flying overseas or driving.”  

“That stirs up resentment and leads to negative reactions.”

The Geneva Greens have since announced that the ban would be reconsidered, with another vote to be held on June 11th. 

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How Switzerland is protecting its cheeses from foreign influence

Neutral Switzerland has not been involved in any foreign wars for centuries, but lately the country has been doing battle over its cheese.

How Switzerland is protecting its cheeses from foreign influence

Makers of the country’s iconic Emmental and Gruyère cheeses have been locked in legal battles to protect their product from inferior foreign imitations. 

Named after the Bern’s Emmental valley where it is produced, the Emmental cheese has a distinctly mild and nutty taste and is also the only Swiss cheese with holes, which “range from the size of cherries to the size of nuts and are formed during the maturation process”, according to Switzerland Cheese Marketing board.

In Switzerland, the Emmental is protected by an AOP — Appellation d’Origine Protégée, which means the product is entirely made in its region of origin.

This label also means the cheese must meet strict criteria, such as the size of the holes, which should ideally be between two and four centimetres in diameter.

However, the Emmental is also made in France and Germany, but Swiss producers claim foreign cheese does not meet the same exacting standards and has little to do with the original recipe.

They have been fighting for years for better protection of the brand manufactured and sold outside Switzerland, but to avail: the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) ruled that “Emmental” doesn’t designate the geographical origin of the product, but only a certain type of cheese with holes.

This decision really cheesed the Swiss off and they filed a complaint against EUIPO’s decision with the General Court of the European Union, which will begin deliberations in September.

READ MORE: Ten varieties of cheese you should be able to identify if you live in Switzerland

However, the Emmental is not the only Swiss cheese caught up in an international legal tangle; Gruyère suffered a similar fate.

An American court ruled in January 2022 that ‘Gruyere cheese’ does not have to be made in the Gruyères region — or even in Switzerland, for that matter —in order to bear the name. 

Swiss cheesemakers said they would appeal the US ruling, but in the meantime the verdict grates on their nerves.

“Gruyère represents a centuries-old traditional recipe, and a region of Switzerland,” an angry Philippe Bardet, director of the Association of Swiss Gruyère Producers, told Switzerland’s Blick newspaper.

“When consumers buy a Gruyère in the United States, they have no idea what awaits them”, he said. “Does the cheese have holes? What milk was it made with?”

Bardet pointed out that Swiss Gruyère producers use only raw milk from cows that eat natural food  — pasture grass in summer and hay in winter .

But in  America, “they use cheap milk”, he said. 

READ MORE: Why are Swiss angry with Americans about Gruyere cheese?