The sound of cow bells is an integral feature of Switzerland’s image, conjuring up idilic alpine scenes of cows roaming freely, chomping on grass. However, these same clanging bells can be less than idilic when you’re trying to sleep. In the small Bernese town of Aarwangen several poorly rested newcomers have complained. Town locals, shocked at what they view as an attack on their culture, are fighting back, reported SRF.
The bells are essentially a sonar location device typically used in summer to find cows roaming freely at higher altitudes where they can get hidden in valleys and wooded areas. However, they are often left on all year round regardless of where the cows are grazing.
In recent years, Aarwangen, a town of around 5,000 residents, has grown. Located roughly an hour from Basel, Bern and Zurich, the village has become increasingly popular with commuters. And as the town has expanded, the make up of its population has changed. People accustomed to more urban environments are moving in and struggling with the sounds of farming.
Two recently arrived couples lodged cow bell noise complaints with the municipality. News of the complaints travelled quickly through the town and a pro-cowbell movement was formed. The movement has now swelled to 1,100 members, roughly a third of those on the town’s voting roll. A group representative said the movement is about much more than bells. It’s about how we want to live and the country’s culture and traditions.
Mayor Niklaus Lundsgaard-Hansen said he thinks the cow debate in Aarwangen is an expression of the urban-rural divide. People coming to the town in recent years are less exposed to agriculture.
In December, residents will gather for a public meeting to vote on the future of their culture. In the meantime, probably shocked by strength of the response, one objecting couple has withdrawn their complaint, and the other has decided to leave town.
Another anti-cow bell campaigner made the news several years ago. Nancy Holten, a vegan animal welfare activist who set up an anti cowbell Facebook page and campaigned against the village’s church bells ran into difficulties gaining Swiss citizenship.
SRF article (in German)