Swiss Reject Plan to Entice Herders to Save Cow, Goat Horns

Cows without horns ahead of a national vote on the horned cow initiative (Hornkuh-Initiative), in Oberwangen, Switzerland, November, 2018. (Reuters/Stefan Wermuth)

Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a national referendum on a cattle farmer’s proposal to have the government subsidize herders of goats and cows if they let their animals keep their horns, official results showed.

Cows, some with some without horns, stand in snow in Gaebris, Appenzell, Switzerland. (Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP/File)

The Swiss federal chancellery said 54.7 percent of voters opposed the measure, which proponents had said would improve the happiness and well-being of the animals, while 45.3 percent cast ballots in favor. Opponents, like a key federation of cattle raisers as well as the federal government, said the measure would cost as much as $30 million a year, and drain funds from other activities.

Armin Capaul, the small-scale cattle herder who had spearheaded the proposal, told Swiss public television RTS that he had “achieved something great, by making people sensitive to the condition of cows. It’s sensational.”

The greatest percentage of support for the initiative among Swiss cantons, or regions, came in Geneva — one of the most urban cantons — where nearly three in five voters supported it.

The impact of the issue was more spectacle than substance. Three-fourths of cows raised in Switzerland don’t have horns, and many are born naturally without them.

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