Impact on climate and wallet – 12 points on the initiative against factory farming
A cow stands in the pasture and grazes, a chicken scratches next to her. This is how many people imagine livestock farming. In reality, however, not all farm animals have regular access to the outdoors. When it comes to hens, only one in ten hens has regular access to the outside. This would change with the factory farming initiative. A more animal-friendly attitude is one of five demands of the initiators.
As the other demands demand, what factory farming means exactly – and what all would change if accepted:
What does the factory farming initiative require?
The initiative wants to ensure that pigs, chickens and other farm animals are kept better and promises an end to factory farming with five demands .
Requirement 1: Accommodation and care
All farm animals should be able to live according to their needs. This included species-appropriate feeding, employment opportunities and animal-friendly housing (animal bedding).
Requirement 2: Access to the outside
The animals should be able to exercise outside on a regular basis. Pigs should also be able to move freely on the meadow and in the mud.
Requirement 3: Gentle slaughtering
The slaughtering method should ensure that the suffering of the animals is kept as low as possible, for example through shorter transport routes or better stunning controls.
Requirement 4: Reduction of group sizes
The animals should be kept in smaller groups and they should be entitled to more grazing area. For example, only 2000 laying hens per farm would be allowed – instead of up to 18,000.
The farm animals would therefore all be kept at least according to the Bio-Suisse standards 2018 .
Import regulations Requirements 1 to 4 should also be taken into account when importing animal products. This also applies to foods that contain animal ingredients, such as baked goods, pasta, etc.
What are the Bio Suisse standards?
At Bio-Suisse, the guidelines go beyond the minimum requirements of animal welfare law and include various regulations on housing, feeding or slaughtering. Different policies apply to different livestock.
For example, a pig on an organic farm has 1.65 square meters of indoor and outdoor space available, while on a conventional farm 0.90 square meters are required indoors – the animals therefore do not have to be allowed to run outside.
By when would companies have to convert?
For implementation, Parliament would have three years to enact the laws. The companies are granted a maximum transitional period of 25 years for the changeover .
What does factory farming mean?
The Duden defines factory farming as «technical animal husbandry in large companies to obtain as many animal products as possible». However, there is no precise definition of when a company practices factory farming.
The initiative committee describes factory farming as a “production system in which the basic needs of the animals are largely disregarded”. In Switzerland , up to 27,000 chickens can be kept in one hall, which, according to the committee, falls under the category of factory farming.
What is the maximum number of animals that can be kept per farm?
Nothing would change for the pigs (max. 1500) and calves (max. 300). The maximum stock of broilers (max. 27,000) also remains – however, only 2,000 chickens can be kept per barn.
There would be a major reduction in laying hens: instead of a maximum of 18,000, only 4,000 laying hens per farm would be allowed, with a maximum of 2,000 laying hens per barn.
How many businesses would this affect?
The Federal Council and Parliament assume that around 3,300 farms will either have to reduce their livestock or increase their farm space. This would increase costs. In its regulatory impact assessment, the federal government expects annual additional costs of CHF 0.4 to 1.1 billion.
Would the prices of meat and animal products go up?
According to the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (BLV), the prices for food such as meat, milk, cheese or eggs would rise. The same applies to products that contain animal ingredients, such as bread, sweets, etc.
Are the bilateral agreements endangered by the import restriction?
That is unclear. According to the FSVO, if only foodstuffs that comply with the Bio-Suisse standard (2018) can be imported, this could lead to the termination of the agricultural agreement between the European Union and Switzerland.
How would an assumption affect the climate?
There are three main climate problems in agriculture : methane, ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions. Many of these greenhouse gases come from livestock farming. Methane is produced, among other things, by the digestive process of ruminants such as cows or sheep. Ammonia comes mainly from the urine of livestock. Nitrous oxide is produced when manure and slurry decompose.
So the equation is simple: the fewer animals, the fewer climate-damaging emissions.
Where does Switzerland stand in comparison to the EU?
There is a big difference in the keeping of laying hens. In the EU, laying hens can be kept in cages – in Switzerland, cage farming has been banned since 1991.
But Switzerland is not only stricter when it comes to chickens: German and French farms keep three times as many pigs, which have to move in a smaller space.
Who endorses the initiative?
The supporters include the SP, the Greens and the Green Liberals. The initiative is also supported by Greenpeace, the small farmers’ association, various animal protection organizations and Pro Natura.
The focus of the committee is the dignity of animals. They are of the opinion that the current animal protection law is not sufficient and that the suffering animals are still “treated like a commodity”. In addition, the changes in the law would not only create more animal-friendly, but also resource-conserving agriculture.
Who rejects the submission?
The federal government and parliament reject the initiative. Mitte, FDP and SVP are fighting the initiative because Switzerland already has “one of the strictest animal protection laws in the world”. An extension is “completely superfluous”. Because the dignity and welfare of animals are already legally anchored in Switzerland.
Opponents sometimes argue that the initiative violates international trade agreements and increases food prices. The farmers’ association also fears that the specifications for the import of products with animal content (biscuits made from butter and milk) could not be checked.
The opponents also include Swissveg, the advocacy group for vegans. According to the association, the initiative ” possibly does more harm than good “. The initiative would present organic meat as “completely unproblematic” and suggest that there would no longer be any factory farming in Switzerland after the bill was accepted.