Today we shall ponder a Swiss referendum on whether cows should keep their horns. This important issue was brought to my attention by an excellent series of articles by Brian Blackstone in The Wall Street Journal. I shall make every effort to avoid using any of Blackstone’s puns, which will not be easy. But then, nothing in life worth attaining is ever easy. Let us begin by explaining what the Horned Cow Initiative is. Once upon a time, way back in 2014, there lived an aging Swiss farmer named Armin Capaul. Old Armin had an organic farm, E-I-E-I-O. And on this farm, he had some cows, E-I-E-I-O. And on those cows, he had some horns, E-I-E-I-O.
That song kind of takes you back, doesn’t it? You are welcome to sing it in your head the rest of the day. Unfortunately, that song doesn’t get sung much anymore, but I digress.
Armin was described by a cheesemaker friend as “just kind of an old hippie.” That description is redundant as there are no hippies who aren’t old in 2018. Again, I digress. Sorry.
Armin decided that it was cruel to Swiss cows to have their horns burned off. The reason Swiss cows have their horns burned off is financial. A horned cow is more likely to poke another cow with her horns, creating veterinary bills and troubled inter-cow relations. As Carnation Milk used to advertise, contented cows give the best condensed milk. A cow anxious about being stabbed by another cow’s horns could be experiencing a winter of discontent and produce hard cheese.
Armin didn’t buy the economic dehorning argument. He was quoted by Blackstone as saying: “A cow and a goat have horns because God made them that way. We humans have no right to remove their dignity and functions, neither with a branding iron nor genetically.” He estimated that only 10 percent of Swiss cows still had their horns.
Armin was not a man to just sit back and complain about hornless cows. No Sirree, Bob. He was a man of action. He got the idea that the Swiss government should pay farmers to not cut off the horns of their cows, like the U.S. government pays farmers not to grow certain crops. Like Mr. Smith going to Washington, Armin took his cow horn subsidy plan to Bern, to the Swiss Parliament. Rebuffed by the government but not discouraged, Armin began a petition to save the horns.
Switzerland has a procedure that requires the holding of a national referendum on any petition that has 100,000 signatures. Armin spent more than $50,000 of his own money to hire his buddies to help get the signatures. The plan was that the Swiss government would pay farmers 190 francs a year for any cow or goat that had its horns. Armin ran a sophisticated social media campaign in support of the referendum, complete with videos.
Blackstone reported the videos had “cows with items on their horns, including clown noses, lamps and even bikinis. Each starts with Armin asking why the cows need horns and ends with his response: ‘Such a stupid question.’”
The Swiss government pushed back against Armin’s campaign to save the horns. Their objection was that horned cows could endanger their cow mates and would create an expensive new set of government agents in charge of counting cow horns and doling out horn subsidy payments.
The Deep State also contended that dehorning cows by burning off their horns as calves wasn’t that painful. No cows were produced to confirm that having their horns burned off was not painful. This part of the government’s position remains unproven. Maybe burning off a cow’s horns is painful, maybe it is not. We will never know because cows can’t talk. Maybe Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi or maybe he didn’t. Khashoggi, like the cows, can’t talk either. My guess is that burning off cows’ horns is almost as painful to the cows as being murdered was to Khashoggi.
Undeterred by government resistance, after two years of getting signatures, Armin reached his goal of 100,000 signatures in 2016. Cowabunga! The referendum was on. Would the cows get to keep their horns? The voters waited with Swiss-cheese-bated breath.
Unfortunately for the cows, the referendum was defeated two weeks ago by 54 percent to 45 percent. Armin’s response to the defeat was, “What can I say? It’s sad. I did everything I could for the cows. I will now go into my stable and apologize to my cows.”
So, what have we learned today? How now, Brown Cow? Got chocolate milk? Does chocolate milk come from brown Swiss cows? The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy reported in 2017 that 7 percent of Americans believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. America’s population is about 325 million, which means about 2.2 million Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows. Does this belief in the origin of the species of chocolate milk mean we are inevitably doomed, or is it just another sign of a coming Apocalypse that could be avoided? There is still time. As the cows at Chick-fil-A urge: “Eat Mor Chikin.”
Make America smarter: Thinking is fundamental. Tell your friends that chocolate milk does not come from brown cows.