This Sunday, Swiss voters will decide whether farmers who leave horns on livestock should get an additional subsidy from Switzerland’s taxpayers. The initiative does not aim to ban horn removal.
The share of hornless cows and goats has increased over the last twenty years to around three quarters of cows and a third of goats. The rise reflects a shift to keeping more livestock in pens where the risk of horn related injury is greater.
The methods for increasing hornless livestock numbers are to breed hornless cows or remove horns shortly after animals are born, a process known as debudding.
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Those behind the initiative believe animals left with horns are happier. And, because of the higher costs of looking after horned animals, these farmers should be more heavily subsidized.
The National Council is firmly against the initiative with 117 votes against, 49 for, and 32 abstaining.
The government argues the plan would do more harm than good to the animals. Cows with horns do more harm to each other and farmers it says. In addition, animals with horns need more space, something that adds to the financial pressure many Swiss farmers are experiencing.
Moreover, it argues that debudding done by professionals is not excessively painful for animals.
Funding for the additional subsidy is unclear. The initiators argue it would be funded from the existing CHF 3 billion of annual farm support. Opponents are concerned it would eat into other existing subsidies.
A recent poll shows a majority (52%) are against the plan with 3% undecided. The poll surveyed 13,298 voters between 8 and 9 November 2018.