Switzerland votes this Sunday on an issue of national importance that has divided the Alpine country — whether to subsidise farmers who let their cows’ and goats’ horns grow naturally, DAWN reports.

The referendum was initiated by farmer Armin Capaul, who, together with his wife, owns a large (by local standards) farm in a remote mountainous region of the Canton of Jura.

Capaul leaves all his cattle with horns, as conceived by nature. But so do few farmers. Approximately 90% of calves and goats after birth are subjected to surgery, during which the farmers burn the roots of their horns. Sounds like meaningless sadism, but actually, it is not.

First, the operation is painless. In addition, it gives economic profits. The fact is that in one room there can be placed more hornless cows than cows with horns. Horned animals need a lot more space so that they do not hurt each other.

But Capaul believes that cows with no horns completely lose their appearance. And they need their horns to communicate.

At least, taking away the cows’ main beauty, farmers distort one of the world’s most famous Swiss symbols, Capaul says. It is because in tourist brochures and advertising campaigns always the horned cows are shown.

The farmer has been fighting since 2010 to keep the horns for the cows. He wrote open letters to the Federal Office of Agricultural Affairs, appealed to the Prime Minister, he wrote petitions, but until recently Capaul did not succeed anything.

Even though he considered it quite reasonable to pay farmers a franc a day for each horned cow and 20 centimes a day for a goat, swissinfo writes.

In 2014, Capaul decided to put forward his proposal as a legislative initiative. To do this, he had to collect 100 thousand francs, half of which was from his and his wife’s retirement accounts, the other half was charity. And then, tens of thousands of signatures helped him bring this issue to a popular referendum.

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