Ban cowbells? Swiss farmers say utter nonsense
Holy cow! A Swiss university has sparked ire by suggesting that cowbells -- as emblematic of the Alpine country as chocolates, watches and Heidi -- should be banned.
Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich said the traditionally heavy bells had high decibel levels and could cause deafness.
To make things worse, cows weighed down by the bells chewed their food for less time, they concluded, adding that to preserve their hearing and healthy feeding habits, the bells should be replaced by GPS tracking devices.
The move to ban the tinkling bovines from the picturesque rolling pastures has angered the farmer's lobby with a lawmaker and 27 other colleagues denouncing the doctorate thesis in a signed motion.
The lawmaker Jacques Bourgeois, who also heads the Swiss Farmers' Union, accused the researchers of being ignorant of the facts on the ground and uselessly questioning "our traditions, habits and customs.
"He attacked the proposal of replacing the bells with a GPS as absurd and said the cowbells helped farmers to locate their stock in bad or foggy weather.
The Swiss government has so far sidestepped the issue and the growing controversy, while underlining the freedom of research.
Cowbells are an integral part of Swiss culture, with several festivals centred around it.
They are also used as decorations and, according to folklore, keep evil spirits away from pastures.
© 2014 AFP