On 25th September 2022, Swiss citizens voted against banning factory farming in a poll where an addition to the federal constitution limiting the number of animals allowed on farms was proposed. The government’s VoteInfo App showed a provisional result of 62.86% of votes against the proposal, put to a referendum under the Swiss system of direct democracy. This result is considerably more than surveys had predicted in recent weeks. Not surprisingly, the farmers’ unions and the government had opposed the proposal, arguing that animal rights are already protected by existing restrictions, which limit the quantities of livestock any single farm can keep. However, Canton Basel City was the only of the 26 regions to approve the idea.

The initiative was triggered by campaigners who had collected 100,000 signatures and demanded various improvements for farm animals, including guaranteed regular outdoor access and a reduction in the maximum numbers allowed in a single stable. But most Swizz citizens rejected all this. Alain Berset, Interior Minister responsible for the government’s stance on the proposal, said on Sunday that citizens had “judged that the dignity of animals is respected in our country, and that their well-being is sufficiently protected by current legislation.” Philip Ryf, Campaign Director for the proposal, said it was a “missed opportunity” to convince the public of the long-term benefits of reducing farmed animals numbers. 

This disappointing result suggests that, unless the percentage of vegans increases in a population (currently it is estimated that only 3% of Swiss citizens are vegans), it is unlikely that crucial policies pointing toward the final solution to today’s global crisis (the vegan world) are going to be passed at national level. In the UK, attempts to ban factory farming via the judicial route have so far also failed. Animal protection campaigners may see reducetarian measures or animal welfare improvements as a low fruit to pick worth to pursue, but these results show that unless you change people’s mindsets, they are unlikely to make a significant impact.

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.