Switzerland is deservedly famous for its incredible scenery, friendly citizens and cities that are so neat, clean and orderly that they can be downright startling to American tourists used to U.S. urban streetscapes.
Outside the cities, the countryside is dotted with hundreds of mountain hamlets nestled in green valleys set against the towering peaks of the Alps. And roaming those Alpine meadows are thousands of dairy cows — more for show than as a thriving sector of animal agriculture, to be sure.
One of the traditions faithfully followed in those hamlets is the use of decorative cowbells worn to help the farmers round up their herd when it’s time for milking.
Now, these cowbells aren’t like the little handheld “instrument” made famous in the Saturday Night Live skit with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken. They’re oversized bells designed to create a sound that can echo for long distances.
Which brings us to the story of one Swiss town. Despite the country’s official status of neutrality, the residents there emphatically took sides, rejecting a passport for a woman — an animal rights vegan, of course — because she was conducting anti-cowbell campaigning.
Actually, the stated reason for the denial was that she was “being annoying.”
Anyone who’s had interactions with vegan activists can offer a one-word response to that observation: Amen!
Cowbells as Jackhammers
The woman, Nancy Holten, 42, was born in The Netherlands, according to the story in The Independent. She was denied a second application for a Swiss passport after local residents in her village in the canton of Aargau, took offense to her rejection of traditions and her “annoying” campaigning” about the use of traditional cowbells.
Under Swiss law, local residents get a say-so in the passport process. Holten’s 2015 attempt at naturalization was approved by local authorities but rejected by 144 out of 206 residents.
Holten, who moved to Switzerland when she was eight and whose children have Swiss citizenship, apparently rubbed locals the wrong way by giving numerous media interviews about her opinions on animal rights.
“The sound that cowbells make is a hundred decibels,” she was quoted in The Independent. “It is comparable to a pneumatic drill. We would not want such a thing hanging close to our ears.”
Oh, so the problem isn’t that the sound bothers people, but that it bothers the cows.
“The animals carry around five kilograms around their neck,” she told the British newspaper the Daily Mail. “It causes friction and burns to their skin.”
She later told The Local that her intention had not been to “attack Swiss traditions,” but had been motivated by animal welfare concerns.
“I think I was too strident and spoke my mind too often,” she said.
Strident? That’s most activists’ middle name.
Tanja Suter, president of the local Swiss People’s Party, characterized Holten as someone with a “big mouth,” and suggested that residents did not want to award her citizenship if she “annoys us and doesn’t respect our traditions.”
Eventually, Holten will likely gain naturalization, since she has met the legal requirements. But you’ve got to give Swiss citizens some serious cred for standing up to the vegan insistence that their perspective on any and all animal activity must become the norm.
By the way, the comments following such stories as this one are often as interesting, if not more so, than the news itself.
As an example of how extreme the thought process of vegans has become, consider this comment from one reader, who obviously considers him/herself to be quite enlightened on the subject of consuming animal foods (literally):
“Predators in the wild are obligate carnivores, and therefore have no choice in the matter, even if they had the capacity to realize the implications of their diet.”
In other words, if the apex predators of the world could somehow be equipped with the brain power of Homo veganis, they would realize the folly of their diet and start using those claws and fangs to begin foraging on grass, shrubs and tree bark.
While avoiding grubs, worms and insects.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and columnist.