The cowbells could, they have demonstrated, create noise levels up to 100 to 113 decibels, which is apparently roughly equivalent to the noise of a chainsaw. The legal limit in Switzerland is 85 decibels.
Cowbells have a long and rich tradition in Switzerland. For centuries herders have used cowbells to keep track of their cows grazing in the country’s hilly and mountainous landscape.
The bells have in the past signified the wealth of a farmer: the bigger the size of a cow’s bell the richer the owner. They are also used as decorations during special occasions, and according to folklore are believed to have magic powers – like keeping the evil spirits away from the pasture.
There are also festivals that centre around the cowbell. One is called Alpaufzug, where the cows are adorned with floral wreaths and create a procession through the town. The best milk-producing cow wears the largest bell, with the others cows wearing bells of varying smaller sizes, depending upon their past year’s milk production.
It seems that we are not the only ones to have batty animal welfare activists. The Swiss also have their fair share of them who have been calling for the cowbells to be banned for some while. Lolita Morena from a Swiss animal protection group has said “We didn’t need long university research to tell us that the bells are not beneficial to cows. Farmers will just have to spend a bit more time finding their cows in bad weather, like shepherds do. Its difficult work……but they chose it.”
Listening to the frustration of a Swiss farmer on Sunday morning, explaining how important these two hundred year old cowbells are to him and the safety of his cows, does make one wonder whether these researchers could not find something of rather more importance to research than this age old, still useful tradition.
Having heard for myself many times the gentle tinkling of cowbells as the cattle meander their ways down mountain paths, it is hard to imagine what harm can be done. I wonder if these researchers studied the cattle out on the mountains or did they do so in laboratory conditions? No doubt anyone can create 113 decibels if they try hard enough.
How sad it would be if due to some white coated research technicians with clipboards, hundreds of years of harmless tradition is replaced by some computerised gismo in order to placate a bunch of batty activists with little common sense or understanding of these cattle or the farmers who tend them. Perhaps a little of the cowbell magic could transport these interfering busy bodies to Mars where they can commune with little green men.
Talking of little green men and farmers; out of curiosity I attended a UKIP farmer’s meeting last week. The main speaker was their agriculture spokesman Stuart Agnew MEP, who farms in Norfolk.
The meeting was attended by 27 East Sussex farmers who listened intently while Mr Agnew explained how UKIP will transform British Agriculture when they win the election in May. He started gently in moderate and soothing terms, and I noted several people nodding off. It started to get more interesting during question time when he was challenged on various scenarios regarding farm support and trade options if the UK pulled out of the EU.
The question which raised the hackles most of the UKIP representatives, which included the local District Councillor, was when asked, why if they are so keen to allow the public to vote on an IN/OUT referendum, would they put up candidates in constituencies where the Conservatives are trying to oust Liberal Democrats. Who have already vowed to support a Labour government, in the event of a hung parliament, which will deny the public such a vote?
This question caused evident anger and frustration amongst the panel, whose replies were spat out loudly and aggressively. They said that all conservatives were liars, none more so than David Cameron and there would never be a referendum unless UKIP wins the election, which they were bound to do.
I think many of us found this quite revealing, if not disturbing. For underneath that apparent initial calm and reasonable exterior, quite obviously lurks anger, frustration and a lack of humility or understanding.
There was a surprisingly inflated egocentric sense of self importance for their local and national representatives, and also an apparent difficulty to communicate calmly and courteously with their audience. This along with other reports of eccentric behaviour from some candidates, could well prove problematic to this party.
I think this General Election, now less than 100 days away, thank God, will throw up some interesting scenarios and questions before the final vote is cast. I believe I am now inspired to hunt out some more party political meetings. Hopefully they will prove equally revealing and entertaining!
Carola Godman Irvine