Cow curfew and fondue ban: Nominees for silliest law in Switzerland revealed

Cow curfew and fondue ban: Nominees for silliest law in Switzerland revealed

New laws in Switzerland, either decided by the government or through referendum, are designed to benefit the population as a whole. However, sometimes, the decisions made by federal, cantonal and local authorities can go from being reasonable to being silly.

Rusty Paragraph Awards highlight silly laws in Switzerland

Silly Swiss laws are celebrated through the slanderous “Rusty Paragraph Awards.” Created by IG Freiheit, the award is meant to recognise “the stupidest, most unnecessary law / regulation,” in Switzerland every year.

Since 2007, the general public has been able to nominate and vote on which Swiss law is the silliest. Last year, the winner was a city councillor for Zurich, Karin Rykart, who planned to restrict dogs in the city to a select number of green spaces, banning them from the lakefront. Here are this year's five nominees:

Swiss cows given a 10pm curfew in Canton Aargau

It’s a common sound to hear throughout Switzerland, but on occasion, the sound of cowbells can be quite an annoyance. This was the opinion of the local council of Berikon, Canton Aargau, which ruled that a farmer had to remove the bells from his cattle at exactly 10pm every night.

In typical Bünzli fashion, the council decided that the 10pm curfew should also apply to the noise made by cows. Berikon council confirmed that they would be adjusting their laws to allow the police to act, should the cows make more noise.

The decision was finalised after complaints by a local resident, who said they “had to flee from home to get some rest," on some nights because of the cows. The resident said that if humans have to stop making noise after 10, why shouldn’t cows?

Geneva attempts to solve equality by creating unequal discounts

In Geneva, councillors are quite aware of gender inequality in their city, with women facing disadvantages in salaries, pensions and working opportunities. While the gender gap is closing in Switzerland, it remains a big issue. Unfortunately, one plan from the city council of Geneva to help solve inequality put two and two together and got six.

The Geneva parliament decided to create a discount card for women exclusively. The card would give a 20 percent discount for swimming pools, theatres and museums, simply because the holder is a woman.

According to the creator of the card, the discount served a more “symbolic function” and was intended to highlight women's inequality in the city. Unfortunately, 20 minuten reported that this was not an opinion shared by Swiss courts, which are likely to brand the scheme a “violation of equal rights.”

Basel teaches residents about potatoes

The city of Basel, in an attempt to educate residents on plants, commissioned the city’s garden centre to teach locals about seasonal food. The city council wanted to teach the people of Basel-Stadt - a place not known for its agriculture - when the potato harvest is and how to grow spuds as a community. Now, because of the new law, the citizens of Basel are able to make appointments with so-called "compost consultants," who use taxpayer money to teach people how to compost correctly. 

Swiss schnaps producer in the same category as arms dealers

Meanwhile, a Swiss bank has decided to adjust its guidelines on who it is able to lend to in future. Aargauer Kantonalbank said that it did not want to support companies that trade in tobacco products, weaponry, pornography, child labour or harmful driftnet fishing. 

The company also confirmed that it would not lend money to those that operate casinos or manufacture alcohol, except beer and wine as they are "part of our eating and drinking culture." This was quite a surprise for local Aargau distiller Lorenz Humbel, who said he was surprised to learn that his schnaps business, active since 1918, was now on the same level as pornography producers and arms dealers.

Fondue and raclette being banned in cable cars

Finally, in a posthumous nomination, the Federal Office of Transport has been nominated for its policy of banning fondue and raclette on Swiss cable cars. The decision, made in 2019, banned open flames in closed cable cars, making the serving of Fondue impossible.

This was a problem for Swiss ski resorts, whose fondue gondolas provided valuable income. Luckily, the practice was re-legalised a week ago, meaning that diners in the Swiss mountains can now enjoy melted cheese in the best seat in the house!

Have your say on the silliest Swiss law

According to IG Freiheit, the awards are meant to highlight “absurd” regulations and make people more aware of the decisions their local authorities make. Anyone who wants to can vote for the winner on the IG Freiheit website, and if you have a Swiss law that you think is weird, let us know in the comments below!

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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