Remko Tanis • 19 October 2018

The Swiss are going to the polls to vote on cow horns.

Farmer Armin Capaul is putting a proposal in front of his fellow citizens, which would force the government to financially support farmers who decide that if their cows come with horns, they get to keep their horns.

A cow on a mountain near Davos, Switzerland. With bell, without horns. (C) Remko Tanis

Capaul, looks exactly like you want your Swiss farmer to look.

He claims it is undignified to remove the horns. His argument: the horns are an integral part of a cow’s body and being, not to mention they also play a role in the animal’s metabolism.

The removal of the horns, which usually happens when a calf is two weeks old, is a painful procedure, Capaul argues. It is done with iron that’s heated to 700 degrees Celsius. The calf gets a pain killer.

The Swiss government advises people to vote against the proposal on voting day, 25 November 2018. The responsible federal minister says the removal of horns doesn’t harm cows in any way. Plus: the man seems to have a trauma from a few run-ins with cows from back when he was helping out his dad, who was a veterinarian.

A cow that gets to keep the horns, would even be worse off, the minister says. An animal with horns is mostly restricted in movement, to prevent people walking around the Alps getting hurt by them. A cow without horns, on the other hand, can roam the Alpine meadows freely.

Swiss Alps near Tujetsch. (C) Remko Tanis

Capaul easily got his 100,000 signatures, required for a national, binding referendum on any topic in Switzerland. He made a smart move by not putting forward a proposal for a straight out ban on horn removal. Being told not to do something is never popular.

Opinion polls show a majority of Swiss in favor of Capaul’s initiative.