At a glance

  • The initiative demands the abolition of factory farming in Switzerland and grants a transitional period of 25 years.
  • The initiative aims at anchoring stricter animal welfare guidelines as a new minimum standard in the Swiss constitution. These standards grant cows, pigs and chickens regular access to the outdoors and considerably more space.
  • The initiative committee is concerned about Swiss agriculture. For this reason, the initiative aims at protecting Swiss farmers by establishing import regulations that take account of the new Swiss standards.

Background

Representative surveys repeatedly show that the vast majority of the population demands meat from «species-appropriate animal husbandry». This is in strong contradiction to the fact that the consumption of animal-based foods are mostly covered by factory farming practices today.

The reasons for this strong discrepancy between demand and supply are manifold and range from a lack of knowledge and awareness to multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns by the meat lobby. The images used in these campaigns still suggest a way of farming close to nature that has nothing to do with the current reality in factory farms. The initiative wants to put an end to this.

Initiative text (in German)

Die Bundesverfassung wird wie folgt geändert:

Neu Art. 80a BV (Landwirtschaftliche Tierhaltung)

1 Der Bund schützt die Würde des Tieres in der landwirtschaftlichen Tierhaltung. Die Tierwürde umfasst den Anspruch, nicht in Massentierhaltung zu leben.

2 Massentierhaltung bezeichnet eine technisierte Tierhaltung in Grossbetrieben zur Gewinnung möglichst vieler tierischer Produkte, bei der das Tierwohl systematisch verletzt wird.

3 Der Bund legt die Kriterien für eine tierfreundliche Unterbringung und Pflege, den Zugang ins Freie, die Schlachtung und die maximale Gruppengrösse je Stall fest.

4 Der Bund erlässt Vorschriften über den Import von Tieren und Tierprodukten zu Ernährungszwecken, die diesem Artikel Rechnung tragen.

Art. 197 BV (Übergangsbestimmung)

neu Ziff. ### Die Ausführungsbestimmungen zur landwirtschaftlichen Tierhaltung gemäss Art. 80a BV können Übergangsfristen für die Transformation der landwirtschaftlichen Tierhaltung von maximal 25 Jahren vorsehen. Die Ausführungsgesetzgebung orientiert sich bezüglich Würde des Tiers an Bio Suisse Standards (mindestens Stand 2018). Ist die Ausführungsgesetzgebung zu Art. 80a BV nach dessen Annahme nicht innert 3 Jahren in Kraft getreten, erlässt der Bundesrat Ausführungsbestimmungen vorübergehend auf dem Verordnungsweg.

Q&A

How does the initiative affect small farmers and alpine farms?

Small farmers and alpine farms would not be affected by the changes, as they do not practice «factory farming». Only the large industrial «meat factories» would be affected.

How is factory farming defined?

The definition of factory farming is based on group size and systematic disregard for the basic needs of farm animals.

Why do you speak of an animal's «claim» not to live in factory farms instead of a simple prohibition of this kind of farming?

Animals are not objects and therefore deserve special attention because of their sensibility and their constitutionally recognized dignity. That is why the initiative does not demand a classical prohibition, but the animal’s «claim» to not having to live in conditions that do not take their needs into consideration.

What about processed products?

It must also be ensured that processed products contain only ingredients that have been produced in accordance with the new constitutional text. Major distributors such as Coop and Migros are already working intensively to increase the use of free-range eggs and other organic ingredients in their finished products.

Will Switzerland remain a grassland and a country of farmers?

Yes, the initiative gives small farmers the chance to survive in the market and achieve fairer market prices by making large farms reduce their immense livestock numbers. In addition, farmers who already use little protein feed (soy) and increasingly rely on pasture farming will benefit. Factory farming leads to unrealistically low prices for animal products. The initiative will counteract this issue. The main beneficiaries would be small-scale and more sustainable farms.

Will there be transition periods?

Yes. A long transitional period is granted bcause many farms have to be converted.

What about import regulations?

The initiative is to be implemented in accordance with international law. The federal government will be given the necessary leeway. Import bans are WTO-compliant if the imported products contradict the «public morality» of a country. Switzerland’s long tradition of animal protection and the acceptance of this ballot initiative would prove that this condition is fulfilled. Import restrictions for products from factory farming are therefore realizable in accordance with international law. For practical implementation, the legislator can fall back on existing foreign animal protection standards and labels.

Do many farms have to close down because they cannot meet the requirements?

The farms would not have to close down, but would simply have to adapt to more animal-friendly conditions. In order to give them enough time to do so, a transition period of a maximum of 25 years is granted. The fact that one does not have to tolerate ethically reprehensible conditions has already been shown elsewhere. For example, the Swiss population has already taken measures for the welfare of animals when it banned the caging of chickens as well as the production of foie gras in Switzerland. With the long transition period, the hurdles when it comes to modernizing a farm are absolutely reasonable.

Does the initiative endanger jobs in Switzerland?

Since farms do not close, but only have to reduce the number of animals per area and ensure other conditions such as bedding and exercise areas, the number of jobs is hardly affected. It is even conceivable that additional jobs will be created, as fewer work processes would be fully automated.

Wouldn’t a positive outcome of the vote lead to more cheap meat being imported?

The initiative text demands that the federal government issues regulations on the import of animals and animal products for nutritional purposes. Meat from factory farming should therefore no longer be imported into Switzerland once the initiative is accepted.

Animals belong to the Swiss landscape and are part of our identity. Will they disappear now?

The image we associate with the identity of Switzerland contains peacefully grazing cows and happily pawing chickens. The farms that reflect this image are strengthened by the initiative. Our landscape benefits from pastures, small and alpine farms – it does not benefit from factory-scale concrete buildings without pasture land.

Milestones

The idea

2016

During dialogues with representatives from different sectors and industries, it becomes clear that the Swiss livestock farming system is no longer sustainable in its current form. Sentience Politics is developing initial drafts for the initiative.

Elaboration of initiative text

2017

Together with legal experts, Sentience Politics is preparing the text for the national ballot initiative.

Foundation of the initiative committee

2017

The initiative committee - consisting of representatives of various organizations and parties - is formed.

Preliminary examination

May 2018

The Federal Chancellery announces that the submitted sample sheet meets all legal requirements. There are no more obstacles to the collection of signatures.

Launch

June 2018

The initiative to abolish factory farms in Switzerland is officially launched in Bern. The committee now has 18 months to collect 100,000 valid signatures.

Submission of signatures

September 2019

The initiative is submitted to the Federal Chancellery in Bern with over 100,000 certified signatures.

First success

October 2019

The Federal Chancellery confirms: The popular initiative has officially come about with 106,125 valid signatures.

Federal Council wants counter-proposal

January 2020

The Federal Council announces that it will prepare a direct counter-proposal to the initiative. The text will be submitted to parliament.

What are the next steps?

2020-2022

The Federal Council is given 18 months from the submission of the ballot initiative - i.e. by March 2021 at the latest - to draft its message on the initiative. After that, the draft federal decree will first be discussed by the National Council and the Council of States before the initiative and the counter-proposal can be submitted to the people for a vote.