September 25 will determine what will end up on our plates in the future. Switzerland then voted on the Factory Farming Initiative – a referendum that would again have a massive impact on Swiss agriculture. What is the initiative really about? And what will she change? Blick answers key questions.
What is the Factory Farming Initiative called for?
The initiative seeks to ensure the protection of the dignity of livestock enshrined in the constitution – and explicitly prohibits factory farming. It is defined as “industrial animal husbandry for the most efficient possible production of animal products in which animal welfare is systematically violated”. Today’s organic standards apply to all livestock keeping – namely housing, care, access to the outdoors, maximum number of animals per stable and slaughter.
What about imported groceries?
The new, higher standards will apply not only to domestic food, but to imported food as well. The initiative clearly says this.
How soon will farmers have to change their animal husbandry?
The implementation period provided by the initiative is long: you will have a maximum of 25 years to agree on the exact implementation and then convert the stables.
Who is behind the initiative?
In autumn 2019, animal rights association Sentence Politics presented a referendum. The organization has caused a stir at the cantonal and municipal level with calls for more vegetarian food in public canteens or basic rights for primates. Other sponsors of the initiative project are animal welfare organization Four Paws, animal and environmental protection organization Fondation Franz Weber and Greenpeace.
What minimum standards apply today?
The Animal Welfare Act and the Animal Welfare Ordinance set minimum requirements – for example with regard to food, access to water, design of stable floors and access to the outdoors. For example, it stipulates that farmers should keep an outdoor diary for their cattle in which they note the exact times when the animals were outside. And the pigs should be able to occupy themselves with straw, hay or any other material and have a lying area.
The law also stipulates that a farm can house a maximum number of animals. For example, a maximum of 300 cattle, 1500 fat pigs or, depending on the age of the animal, a maximum of 18,000 to 27,000 chickens are allowed.
Women farmers can also adhere to stricter standards if they so desire – and receive more direct payments in return. There are two programs: one specifically for animal friendly stables (BTS) and one for regular outdoor exercise (RAUS). By BTS standards, 62 percent of farm animals are currently kept, compared to 78 percent by RAUS standards as well – although quotas vary greatly depending on the animal species. Only half in the case of pigs and only 8 percent in the case of broiler chickens get regular exercise.
How strict are organic standards?
When it comes to animal husbandry, organic farms do not have to adhere to stricter regulations than farmers who regularly let their animals roam and therefore receive direct payments. Unlike conventional farmers, the RAUS program for organic farmers is not voluntary, but mandatory. In addition, animals have a little more space in organic animal husbandry. AND: In the case of laying hens and fattening hens, far fewer animals can be kept in a barn than in traditional ranching. By organic standards, conventional operations have a maximum of 2,000, up to 27,000.
Of course, organic goes far beyond animal husbandry. The organic standard also includes strict rules for feed and, above all, for crop production. But this is not what the Factory Farming Initiative is about.
What is the organic ratio of meat, dairy products and eggs today?
The proportion of organic eggs is the largest: almost every third egg sold is organic. On the other hand, for dairy products, it’s only one-eighth – and only 6 percent for meat.
What are the arguments of the advocates?
Initiators criticize that farm animals are treated too much as goods and not enough as living beings. They call for a move away from “profit maximization at the expense of animals, humans and the environment”. For those who support it, it is clear that this initiative will lead to a reduction in meat consumption, and from their point of view this is correct. Because consuming less animal-based food is more sustainable and healthier.
State SP Councilor Daniel Jositsch: «Today, economic interest is more important than animal dignity»,00:41,
What does the opposing camp say?
Large sections of business and agriculture are fighting against the initiative. They find the initiative patronizing and argue that Switzerland already has the strictest animal protection laws in the world. Another important argument is that of the wallet: according to opponents, there is no doubt that animal products will become more expensive. Families with smaller budgets will have to pay the price.
What is the attitude of the parties?
As of early August, not all parties have come up with the slogan yet. The SP, Greens and Green Liberals voted in favor of it in Parliament. Mitte, on the other hand, was the FDP and the SVP.
And what about the Federal Council?
The government takes the initiative too far. However, he had submitted a counter-proposal to the initiative. In short, it provides that guidelines for going outside will become mandatory – that is, that all farm animals should be able to go outside regularly. The Federal Council did not get this proposal in Parliament, which is why the question now is: Will Switzerland say yes to the initiative or will everything remain the same?