Switzerland Could Be the First Country to Ban Factory Farming


A plastic cow statue sits on a trailer near Collex-Bossy, with placards reading in French “Pricey food? No to the useless livestock initiative” and “Animal welfare? We are already taking care of it, No to the useless livestock initiative” on Sept. 15, 2022, ahead of a vote scheduled for Sept. 25 on a proposed ban on factory farming. / Fabrice Coffrini—AFP/Getty Images

On Sunday, Swiss voters will decide whether to declare factory farming unlawful and stop importing meat from such operations.

According to the most recent poll, 52% of people are against a ban while 47% are in favor. The Swiss constitution, which already protects the “welfare and dignity of animals,” would be changed to include an animal’s right “not to be intensively farmed” if the factory farming initiative is successful. Additionally, new laws would lower animal stocking rates to comply with organic standards.

The general director of the animal protection organization Sentience Politics, which put forth the proposal in 2018, Silvano Lieger, claimed that under existing Swiss law, “you may keep 27,000 chickens in one barn and their room to move is approximately the size of an A4 sheet of paper.”

Ueli Stauffacher’s poultry farm is outstanding by many standards. The hens it produces for meat (referred to as broilers in agricultural jargon) are housed in two roomy, well-kept barns, which are located about 30 minutes southwest of Zurich. One of those barns has heated floors that keep the bedding dry for the birds and a cutting-edge filtration system that eliminates the overwhelming ammonia smell that is typical of poultry farms, leaving the air inside remarkably fresh and clean. The farm may be entirely powered by renewable energy thanks to solar panels on the roof. Stauffacher and his wife even conduct playgroups at the farm, replete with a cheerfully designed break room where kids can paint and enjoy snacks while seeing the hens through a window.

 

The 40-year-old farmer, though, worries that he may soon be forced to either drastically alter his method of bird raising or shut down his farm entirely. On September 25, the Swiss will vote on an amendment to the federal constitution that would outlaw industrial farming, a first for the world. If the plan is approved, Stauffacher will have to build a lot more barns or drastically cut the number of broilers he grows over the next 25 years from the 9,000 he currently raises in each of his two barns to about 2,000. He claims that neither of these choices is economically feasible.

“Pigs are kept in barns too, up to 1,500 per farm, with 10 pigs sharing the space of an average parking spot. It is not possible to treat animals in a dignified way in those conditions,” he said.

“People don’t understand how agriculture works anymore,” Stauffacher said on one of the first chilly mornings this fall. “Forty or fifty years ago, almost everyone had someone in their family who farmed, but that conduit is gone now. So you get people saying, ‘oh, poor animals.’ But they still want to eat meat.”


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Groups supporting the ban include Switzerland’s Small Farmers’ Association, Greenpeace, Les Vertes (The Green party) and animal conservation groups. The Parti Socialiste Suisse is the only political party in the government that supports the prohibition (Social Democratic party).

According to Lieger, who also made note of the requirement to limit the use of animal proteins, a ban would protect the environment by lowering reliance on soy-based animal feed connected to deforestation.

Only 5% of farms would be impacted by the possible ban, according to his team’s calculations. The national statistics office reports that, notwithstanding the lack of precise data on the percentage of small farms in the nation, there are less farms overall and larger farms overall in Switzerland.

The Swiss Farmers’ Union (SBV), which is leading the opposition to the ban, claims that because of existing regulations restricting the number of farm animals, intensive farming does not exist in Switzerland.

According to Michel Darbellay, director of production, market, and ecology at the SBV, Swiss farmers are permitted to raise up to 18,000 laying hens and 27,000 meat birds. A maximum of 4,000 laying hens and 500 meat chicks would be allowed under the ban, while adjustments to pig regulations would result in a 50% decrease in pork production, he claimed.

 


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By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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