While the rest of world is worried about terrorism, the Greek default and unemployment,

Swiss parliament to discuss cow horns

By NNA correspondent Ruth Zbinden

BERN (NNA) - The Swiss Parliament will shortly have to deal with the question of whether cows should keep their horns or not. An initiative by Swiss citizens has recently put forward a draft parliamentary bill dealing with this issue, which has been signed by an astounding number of people.

They are campaigning for the introduction of a form of husbandry which takes account of the true nature of the animals and are no longer willing to accept the rise in the mutilation of cows. According to the bill, farmers who allow their animals to keep their horns should be reimbursed one Swiss franc per cow per day by the government.

Christian Butscher is the president of the Society for Biodynamic Agriculture as well as being the manager and on the board of Bio Suisse, the umbrella organisation for Swiss organic farmers. For more than two decades he has managed his own farm. In the evening, when his cows are led to pasture, they are something to be admired.

It is patently obvious that a cow with its wonderfully curved pair of horns gives a totally different impression to unfortunate hornless cattle. It is also possible to argue that Christian Butscher's cows feel themselves to be completely different with horns; perhaps with more self-esteem for example. They have standing and are not simply exploited beasts.

Animals have hooves and some even have horns or antlers. They require them as tools to clear their way, to acquire food and naturally also to defend themselves.

The majority of people who read this article have a fingernail on every finger. But really what for? To claw out the eyes of our fellow human beings? Such a thought seems absurd to us. Fingernails are really very important and useful instruments and greatly improve our fine motor skills. It would not occur to anyone to remove them in an operation because they can also be used to scratch.

If cows on a conventional farm are kept in stalls which are too small and are given very little free range, there is undoubtedly a risk of injury. Under similar circumstances we, too, would become aggressive. But should we as consumers not have a interest in the ethical treatment of animals? For hundreds of years fine and patient cows have given us valuable minerals through their milk.

Through their purchasing behaviour, consumers can influence how these faithful animals are treated. They can demand the production of a large quantity of milk for little money and effort which affects the way in which the cows are kept, but if this produce is of the quality that we want is an entirely different question. Animals treated well and in accordance with their nature provide better and healthier products.

In biodynamic and organic agriculture it is therefore held that animals should be left as they are. The removal of the horns of cows is not allowed in farming which follows the Demeter guidelines; they stipulate that cows must be allowed to keep their horns. The founder of biodynamic agriculture, Rudolf Steiner, pointed out as long ago as 1924 in a lecture at the Koberwitz estate in Silesia that horns should be considered as an important organ and that they were connected with the metabolism.

Both the quality of milk and the extent to which it agrees with us is affected by whether or not a cow has its horns. That was also the result found by a symposium on milk held by the Demeter Association in Germany.

In Switzerland, the removal of horns began in the 1970s, concurrently with a general intensification in agriculture. But it was implemented even earlier in Argentina, where cattle are reared mainly for beef.

In the press there is a continual stream of reports with opposing opinions, both for and against the removal of horns. As consumers we can take a stance through our purchasing habits - do we view animals purely as a source of food and therefore treat them accordingly, or do we want to maintain them as a valuable part of creation.

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