On the 25 September 2022 the Swiss electorate will vote on the Factory Farming Initiative.
Switzerland’s current legislation on the protection of animals is among the strictest in the world. The dignity and welfare of animals are both protected under the law. In 1992, Switzerland became the first nation to consider the dignity of animals in its constitution.
Current laws apply regardless of how many animals are kept in one place. However, some would like the law to go further and ban factory farming. This would mean further restricting the number of animals in one space, increasing access to outdoor space and changing slaughtering practices.
The initiative wants to make protecting the dignity of farm animals such as cattle, chickens or pigs a constitutional requirement. It also aims to ban factory farming because it systematically harms the welfare of animals. If accepted, the federal government would have to set stricter minimum requirements for animal-friendly housing and care, access to the outdoors, slaughtering practices and the maximum group size per pen. These requirements would have to meet the Bio Suisse standards for 2018 as a minimum, and all farms would have to comply with the new rules in their animal husbandry. The requirements would also apply to imported animals and animal products as well as foods with ingredients of animal origin. This would be in breach of agreements with important trading partners and result in higher investment and operating costs, costly inspections of foreign farms and an increase in the price of food of animal origin, says the government.
The biggest changes would be to egg producers. The maximum number of laying hens per farm would fall from 18,000 to 4,000, with a maximum of 2,000 laying hens in a single space. The maximum size of pig and calf farms would remain the same: 300 and 700 respectively. The chicken farm maximum would remain the same (27,000) but with a new requirement of no more than 2,000 birds in a single space. The other change would be to reduce the maximum number of large animals per hectare from 3.0 to 2.5.
A majority (106) of members of the National Council, Switzerland’s parliament, voted against the initiative, 77 for it and 8 abstained. The vote proportions were similar in Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house, with 32 against, 8 in favour and 1 abstentions.
The latest polls on this vote point towards rejection with 52% against, 47% in favour and 1% undecided.