GENEVA: Swiss voters decide on Sunday whether to ban factory farming in a referendum on whether the wealthy country's strict animal welfare laws need to be tightened yet further.
The proposal under the Swiss system of direct democracy wants to make protecting the dignity of farm animals such as cattle, chickens and pigs a constitutional requirement.
The government would have to set stricter rules for caring for animals, including giving them access to the outdoors, and for slaughtering them. The requirements would also cover imported animals and animal products.
The government recommended against the proposal, saying such changes would breach trade accords, increase investment and operating costs, and boost food prices.
“Switzerland already has the tightest animal protection laws that exist, but I always say this may be true, but we can do even better and we should do better,“ said Alexandra Gavilano, a sustainable food expert for Greenpeace Switzerland.
That carried little weight for Daniel Wuergler, co-owner of the Gallipool Frasses poultry farm, who said he would be forced to reduce his flock under the proposals.
“Whether I have 2,000 laying hens or 18,000, I can be a good farmer or a bad one. So for me, this initiative is totally useless,“ he said.
“If the initiative passes, we would be allowed to put 2,000 laying hens in this building. Doing the math, it won’t be possible to make our investments profitable.”
A poll this month found proponents of the measure were narrowly ahead but opponents were gaining.
“I think we must help farmers who are doing industrial farming to reconvert to do a more respectful farming. I’m OK if they use my taxes to support farmers because these reconversions will cost a lot of money,“ Geneva resident Bernard Zumthor said.
“If we want to save the planet, we need to be self-sufficient, each and every one of us.”
Geneva resident Pedro Simko said he was voting “no”.
“I respect the government’s views and they recommended voting ‘no’, saying the initiative is a little bit excessive, a little bit extreme, so I was sensitive to that too.” -Reuters