Swiss Review 4/2022

farmer from the Jura region, is a member of the Uniterre organisation and has her own views on this matter. “Male farmers are caught up in a system of loyalty to their peers and are influenced by their education, whereas we women bear the children. We have a responsibility to the future generations,” she declares. Her farm in the Franche-Montagnes district is a unique neo-agricultural enclave, where meat is eaten only twice a week. Christine is in favour of reducing the scale of poultry and pig production. She opposes plans to increase milk production. “More cows means even more manure. The land is already overloaded with it,” she says. Faced with a drought situation, the farmer would consider reducing her herd. She emphasises the generous time period outlined by the initiative – 25 years – to organise a transition to organic farming. “There will be more small farms, which is a positive thing,” she adds, hopefully. Act now before feed shortages occur According to Greenpeace, the transition will happen sooner rather than later due to grain and fodder shortages in an environment already under pressure. “We need to help farmers who are dependent on this production system and on major distributors,” says Alexandra Gavilano. She believes that the approval of the initiative would “provide a political basis for the creation of a fund to support the transformation of agriculture”. The Federal Council proposed a direct counter-proposal to this initiative that instead would have required all livestock to have regular outdoor exercise. The National Council, however, did not agree to the proposal. Pro: Kontra: initiative to enable the federal government to protect Swiss agriculture? Paradoxically, Noël fears for his business. “If production declines because the number of hens per farm is shrinking, we’ll be competing with foreign poultry, which are raised under much worse conditions than in Switzerland.” In the European Union, for example, chicken farms can house up to 100,000 birds. Noël foresees problems in trying to expand the construction of small organic farms, despite owning one himself. On the other hand, however, the initiative backers believe that such farms would be favourable to animal welfare. A sense of loyalty at play among farmers If the initiative is approved, around 5 percent of Swiss farms would be forced to change their farming methods. Greenpeace reports that 237 farms have more than 12,000 hens, accounting for 43 percent of the total poultry stock in Switzerland. Why, then, are some organic farmers fighting the initiative? Christine Gerber, a that “import taxes on animal feed have been lowered since the war in Ukraine began”. The activist is calling on the Swiss population to reduce their consumption of meat, milk and eggs. The idea is that plants should be the primary source of nutrition for humans. The initiative also has a strong ethical component. “The concept of an animal’s dignity includes the right not to be intensively farmed,” argue supporters of the initiative. They point out that only 12 percent of farm animals have access to an outdoor pasture during their lifetime, and that up to 4 percent of farm animals die prematurely before they are taken to the abattoir. When confronted with these figures, Noël puts them into perspective. “The farms with 18,000 chickens also provide winter runs and pastures,” he says. But isn’t the whole point of the Conventional farms are allowed to keep up to 18,000 chickens per shed. Animal rights activists are campaigning against this high density and its consequences for animal welfare. Here we see a poultry farm in Daillens (VD). Photo: Keystone A stamp that certifies animal wellbeing. The code 0-CH-BIO designates eggs from farms that meet the Bio-Suisse criteria. Photo: Stéphane Herzog Swiss Review / August 2022 / No.4 27