Cows with or without horns? Swiss to vote on Sunday
- Swiss vote on subsidy for farms whose cows, goats keep horns
- Farmer behind initiative says horns maintain animals' dignity
- Others say dehorning is safer for herd, farmers
- Latest polls show Sunday vote too close to call
Switzerland votes this Sunday on an issue of national importance that has divided the Alpine country - whether to subsidise farmers who let their cows' and goats' horns grow naturally.
The referendum on preserving the "dignity of livestock" was initiated by farmer Armin Capaul, 66, a self-described rebel. He says that "listening" to his cows inspired his nine-year campaign for cash to fund the extra grazing space horned animals need and which he hopes will reduce dehorning.
"We must respect cows as they are. Leave them their horns. When you look at them they always hold their head high and are proud. When you remove the horns, they are sad," he told Reuters on his small farm in northwestern Switzerland.
Three-quarters of Swiss cows, who are a national symbol and tourist attraction, are dehorned or genetically hornless.
Capaul, who says horns help cows communicate and regulate their body temperature, wants a 190 Swiss franc ($191.65) annual subsidy per horned animal for farmers.
When political lobbying failed, he collected over 100,000 signatures to trigger a national vote.
The latest poll says the vote is too close to call.
His campaign is likely to garner support from those who oppose dehorning - burning a sedated calf's horn buds with a red-hot iron. Critics say it is painful and unnatural but supporters liken it to castrating cats or dogs and argue it is a safety issue.