Swiss reject plan to entice herders to save cow, goat horns

Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a national referendum on a cattle farmer's proposal to have the government subsidize herders of goats and cows if they let their animals keep their horns, official results showed.

The Swiss federal chancellery said 54.7 percent of voters opposed the measure, which proponents had said would improve the happiness and well-being of the animals, while 45.3 percent cast ballots in favor. Opponents, like a key federation of cattle raisers as well as the federal government, said the measure would cost as much as $30 million a year, and drain funds from other activities.

Armin Capaul, the small-scale cattle herder who had spearheaded the proposal, told Swiss public television RTS that he had "achieved something great, by making people sensitive to the condition of cows. It's sensational."

The greatest percentage of support for the initiative among Swiss cantons, or regions, came in Geneva — one of the most urban cantons — where nearly three in five voters supported it.

The impact of the issue was more spectacle than substance. Three-fourths of cows raised in Switzerland don't have horns, and many are born naturally without them.

The Swiss were also called to vote on two other referendums as part of Switzerland's form of direct democracy. Referendums, often held several times a year, follow petition drives mustering at least 100,000 signatures to bring issues up for a vote and ultimately change the constitution.

The electorate solidly approved a measure that will allow insurance providers to secretly monitor people suspected of insurance fraud: It passed by nearly 65 percent to just over 35 percent.

Voters quashed the last measure on the federal ballot: A "self-determination" proposal to ensure Switzerland's constitution precedence takes over international treaties agreed by the government, an idea supported by the country's leading right-wing populist party, the Swiss People's Party.

Roughly two-thirds of those balloting rejected that plan. Approval could have, in particular, had an impact on Switzerland's multifaceted, multi-accord relationship with the European Union. Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is all but surrounded by four members of the bloc: Austria, France, Germany and Italy.

Overall turnout was just under 47 percent.