Switzerland will soon make history by allowing the public to vote on whether factory farming should be banned.
The vote will take place on September 25. It will see the European country vote for or against introducing more stringent restrictions on how animals are kept and killed.
Under these restrictions, farms would need to, at a minimum, comply with the Bio Suisse standards for 2018. Bio Suisse is a Swiss association of organic farming organizations. Its purpose is to promote more environmentally and animal-friendly farming practices.
If the public vote in favor and the ban is implemented, the federal government would have to bring in tighter regulations on farmed animals’ housing. There would also be stricter rules on care, access to the outdoors, slaughtering practices, and maximum group size per pen.
Swiss anti-speciesist political organization Sentience Politics launched the initiative in 2016. Co-president Philipp Ryf said: “We believe animal agriculture is one of the defining problems of our time. It is an issue whose time has come.”
“This is why we launched the initiative. If passed, it will vastly improve the lives of the more than 80 million animals that are raised for food each year in Switzerland. It will most probably also reduce that number significantly, which is hugely beneficial to the environment and our health.”
Pro Veg International, a vegan non-governmental organization, has heralded the move.
“We really welcome this opportunity for the people of Switzerland to express their views on factory farming,” Jasmijn de Boo, the organization’s vice president, told Plant Based News (PBN). “We know that many people object to the way animals are treated in factory farms.”
Factory farms often keep animals in cages too small for them to turn around. Farmers also often subject them to painful mutilations, such as cutting off their tails.
Animal welfare in Switzerland
Currently, Switzerland has some of the best animal welfare laws in the world.
In a 1978 public vote, 80 percent of the population approved the Animal Welfare Act. In 1992, Switzerland became the first country to recognize animals in the constitution. A provision warranted “the dignity of the creature.”
Currently, there are limits on how many of each animal can be kept on a farm. These include a maximum of 300 veal calves, 1,500 pigs, or 18,000 hens. It is also illegal to kill animals without stunning them first.
But there is still progress to be made.
“Farm animals in Switzerland are much better off than elsewhere,” Julika Kitzi of Swiss Animal Protection previously told SwissInfo. “In no other country are there so many farmers who voluntarily allow their animals more space to run than required by law.”
She added, however, that animals often don’t live “as the advertising suggests” on Swiss farms. “Many people are not aware that in Switzerland it’s legal to keep a fattening pig on an area of less than one square meter – without bedding.”
Pro Veg is hopeful that the people of Switzerland could lead the way for other countries to follow suit.
“It is imperative that other governments, in particular the EU and in North America, should follow the lead and consult on the future of factory farming,” de Boo told PBN. “We need policies that at least set out time scales to downscale industrial animal farming and envisage the removal of subsidies for animal agriculture.”