Making hay: Farm animals could get constitutional rights in Switzerland

Voters in Switzerland are set to decide whether to ban factory farming and modify laws to grant animals the constitutional right "not to be intensively farmed."

Under a new proposal that will be considered by Swiss voters over the weekend, the country would be required to implement laws that lower animal stocking rates and limit the importation of intensively farmed meat. The proposal has received mixed support, with national polling showing that 52% of voters oppose the ban, while 47% support it.

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Proponents argue a ban would protect the environment by reducing farms' reliance on soya-based animal feed that has been linked to widespread deforestation. Animal rights groups have also championed the proposal, pushing for more humane conditions in the facilities where animals are held.

"You can keep 27,000 chickens in one barn, and their room to move is about the size of an A4 sheet of paper," said Silvano Lieger, managing director of Sentience Politics, an animal rights group that proposed the ban in 2018. "Pigs are kept in barns, too, up to 1,500 per farm, with 10 pigs sharing the space of an average parking spot. It is not possible to treat animals in a dignified way in those conditions."

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However, opponents have argued the ban would negatively affect the domestic production of meat and would fail to prevent the cheap importation of intensively farmed animals. Others have argued Swiss law already enforces strict welfare laws.

About 80% of Swiss meat is produced domestically, according to ProViande, the Swiss interbranch organization for the meat industry. However, some industry workers say the rate of importation would increase drastically if the ban is implemented.

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