Dairy farmer Martin Schuler is planning a huge cowshed, one 200 metres by long 50 metres wide and 20 metres high, on his land at Drälikon near Hünenberg, but the Swiss Countryside Protection Foundation (SLS) has said it is oversized.
In addition to the SLS objecting to it, some 3,926 people have signed a petition to stop what they call this “cow factory” from being built.
The new shed would be capable of housing some 1,040 cattle but numerous residents of nearby Hünenberg are not happy about it. “It is simply a huge animal factory, the size of which has never been seen in Switzerland,” it was claimed, residents also concerned about the lorries needed to bring all the food to the site and take the cows off for slaughter. In addition, they fear for the negative effects on this area of the plain of the River Reuss, with its recuperative properties.
The organisation behind the petition, which calls itself Fluid Spirit (in English) looks to preserving Hünenberg “as a community for all humans, animals and plants of this world,” as Danielle Jolissaint, the initiator of the petition, wrote. She mentioned how the keeping of calves in small igloo-style stalls by Schuler and the inconsiderate way in which he was treating animals was breaking her heart. For her, it was abhorrent that calves were taken away from their mothers soon after birth so the milk the latter produce could be sold to humans. “Let it not be forgotten animals are part of the Creation, too. It is not right for them to be treated in this way, just for the sake of humans’ greed. If everyone visited an abattoir, they would no longer be prepared to eat meat and opt to allow cows to feed their calves with their own milk.” Anyone else who would like to sign the petition, which is primarily for the people of Hünenberg, has until Thursday 31 October to do so.
For his part, Schuler feels he is misunderstood. He has endeavoured to keep the public informed through his www.chueweid-huenenberg.ch website (chueweid meaning cow meadow). Referring to Fluid Spirit, he called them a group of vegans who has put him on their “shooting list” and wanted to make an example of him. He mentioned how he had already met up with Jolissaint, not about this current project, but about the way calves are treated, with her likening the stalls previously referred to being like solitary confinement for them. As Schuler explained, many farmers used them; they were important for animal health and hygiene. “We keep to animal protection regulations,” he insisted.
While, as mentioned, the new stall could accommodate up to 1,040 cattle, the farmer, who is also a cantonal parliamentarian of the SVP party, said he had no intention of keeping so many. He just wanted to increase slightly his current herd of 300 Jersey cows, the extra space to be used to allow the cattle to lie down, meaning, per head, they had actually more space than legislation insisted on, and adding how the new shed was not planned for the ground water protected area.
Summing up, he said he was sorry emotions were being aroused with wrong facts and criticised the homepage of Fluid Spirit for the way the planned new building has been visualised, making it look much bigger.
Among further hurdles the farmer faces are the fact that, with his plans to create an agricultural special zone, locals would have to agree. What he wanted to emphasise was that this project was there to ensure the continued existence of his family business.