Farmers' association feels it has been put on the spot by the SonntagsZeitung

Cruelty to animals: The SonntagsZeitung has reported on "scandalous conditions on Swiss farms" in its current issue. The farmers' association sees the article as an "unjustified blanket condemnation" and is lodging a complaint with the Press Council.

The five authors who wrote the report for the SonntagsZeitung reported on animal welfare violations on Swiss farms. Cattle appear to suffer particularly frequently: in 2018, over 3,900 deficiencies in the qualitative animal welfare of young cows were reportedly found during inspections. In the end, this led to 613 convictions of farmers or animal transporters.

The article talks about "scandalous conditions" - even though it emphasizes that the majority of farmers treat their animals correctly. However, consumers cannot be sure that the meat on their plate does not come from animals that have suffered.


Various cases are mentioned, starving, sick animals, precarious hygienic conditions, thirsty calves and the electric "cow trainer" (banned in new buildings since 2013), which is often installed improperly - a live wire that forces the animals to defecate in the gutter behind them. According to a cantonal veterinarian, overstraining is usually the reason why farmers violate animal welfare laws. In some cases, the animals are deliberately left to suffer.

"Brennpunkt Bauernhof" is the name of the project for which Tamedia journalists researched the agricultural sector and evaluated anonymized federal data on direct payments. The results have been appearing in various Tamedia titles since Sunday.

In the article of the SonntagsZeitung The farmers' association also has its say. The association emphasizes that it supports the authorities with inspections and is itself interested in holding farmers who are at fault to account - because they damage its image. It also points out that the majority of farmers take good care of their animals.

"Unjustified blanket condemnation"

Nevertheless, the association is less than pleased with the finished, "sensationalist" article. There is talk of "distorted reporting" in the statement from Tuesday evening.

The farmers' association emphasizes that no "animal welfare deficiencies" were found in 87% of the inspections in 2018. The figures published by the SonntagsZeitung The figure of 613 reported cases is described as "unsightly" and "high". However, these are not "thousands of farms, but 1.3 percent of livestock farmers". Nor can it be used to draw conclusions about generally scandalous conditions on Swiss farms.

The statement continues: "This unjustified blanket condemnation is a slap in the face for the vast majority of farming families who take exemplary care of their animals on a daily basis. The SBV is therefore submitting a complaint to the Press Council against the reporting of the Tamedia Group and in particular the SonntagsZeitung in."

It remains to be seen how the Press Council will judge the case.

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