Despite defeat: Factory farming has won Switzerland’s attention

The Swiss electorate rejected the initiative against factory farming. As part of the sponsoring committee, Sentience is pleased that the initiative has received a great deal of attention in recent months. Since the initiative’s launch in 2018, the issue has gained importance among the population. As the discussions have made clear, factory farming will continue to be a concern for Switzerland in the future.

«Today, Switzerland missed the opportunity to improve the lives of millions of animals in agriculture for the better. Thus, the dignity of animals enshrined in the Constitution remains a hollow promise and fails to meet the needs of the animals» said Silvano Lieger, executive director of Sentience, after the announcement of the voting result. «As long as a broiler chicken has to spend its life on the equivalent of an A4 sheet of paper and 10 pigs share the space of one parking lot, the Swiss animal welfare law is insufficient. Now it’s clear: a significant percentage of the population share this assessment.»

Campaign success despite headwind from an unholy alliance

With the Swiss Farmers’ Union, the most powerful lobby representing the agricultural industry positioned itself against the initiative from the outset. Thanks to the alliance of influential business associations and the support from the conservative parties, the counter-campaign had financial resources that exceeded those of the initiators several times over. At the same time, the YES campaign had to fight misleading and euphemistic information from the opposition and the federal government. Indeed, the electorate was deliberately deceived by misleading numbers published in the voting booklet, using a methodology whereby 250 chickens equate to one cow, leading to wrong numbers regarding the percentage of animals with access to the outdoors.

However, this is outweighed by our pride in an impactful campaign: the initiative has generated attention beyond our borders and has contributed massively to the awareness of the population about the conditions endured by animals in agriculture.

«In addition to animal welfare and environmental groups, the initiative was also supported by numerous agricultural organisations. This underscores how it was always our intention to go down this path together with the farming community. The result of the vote has not changed that.» says Lieger.

Animal welfare will remain a social concern in the future

For Sentience, it is clear that the issue of factory farming is far from being off the table. «The Swiss population cares about animal welfare. This has been shown in this referendum campaign. Thanks to the initiative, many people learned for the first time what it’s like on large-scale industrial farms in this country,» says Lieger. Even though the Initiative was rejected, Sentience is convinced that public interest in this issue will continue.