Friday, November 8, 2013

Litter is peril for Swiss cows

Here's the story from the New York Times a few days ago under the headline "With Cows in Mind, Swiss Farmers Wage Litter Battle." (The mini-head is Solothurn Journal, Solothurn being a canton in the northwest of Switzerland, with a population of 260,000).  Here's an excerpt:
Hard as it might be to believe, the orderly Swiss have a litter problem. Oddly, though, it is not in their towns and cities, where you might sooner stumble over a meteorite than a flattened Coke can or empty cigarette pack. 
Out in the countryside here southwest of Basel, it is another story. So much litter is tossed out of cars that Swiss farmers have begun a campaign to fight it. They complain not just about the mess but about the danger the refuse poses to livestock.
Journalist John Tagliabue goes on to explain how litter can be fatal to ruminants.  He reports that a number of cows have had to be slaughtered, presumably after ingesting litter that gets shredded and baled into hay.  Interestingly, the Swiss have identified themselves--not tourists or immigrants--as the source of the litter, and they are working to educate their countrymen about the perils of litter to cows and the wider environment.

It seems this phenomenon may support the argument I have made elsewhere that rural areas tend to be more lawless, perhaps because it is more difficult to police dispersed populations, among whom space creates expectations of privacy.  That privacy may give rise to unlawful acts because people assume they will not be found out.

As for the Swiss campaign to educate against litter, opinions on its effectiveness are mixed.  One farmer opines that the "results are about equal to zero," but an official with the Swiss Farmers Union insisted, "The Swiss sense of order remains strong." 

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