Vegan Activist Denied Swiss Passport by Local Residents in Unique Saga

Dutch-born Nancy Holten has lived in Switzerland for most of her adult life, speaking in the native Swiss German tongue, raising a family and participating in local commerce. But controversy over her out-spoken veganism is preventing her from acquiring a Swiss passport – and causing the media to take notice.

And no, it’s not because she refuses to eat the delicious milk chocolate.

The 42-year old activist has campaigned fervently against the cow bells used on local livestock, namely the five-kilogram cowbell that alpine cattle wear around their necks.

Nancy has accused farmers in her village of Gipf-Oberfrick of cruelty, stating that cow’s bells are a violation of animal rights. “The sound that cow bells make is a hundred decibels,” Holten told a Swiss newspaper. “It is comparable to a pneumatic drill. We (human beings) would not want such a thing hanging close to our ears.”

The left-wing firebrand has also campaigned against hunting, pig races and church bells – the latter driving villagers to think she is personally irritated by the clang of bells, rather than truly concerned with the well-being of the animals.

Thanks to the laws of Switzerland, the dispute may have cost Nancy her chance at a Swiss passport and eventual citizenship as a Swiss national.

By tradition, the Swiss government allows its citizens to vote to deny a passport to anyone they consider a threat to the well-being of the public. In 2015, authorities wanted to naturalize Holten as a citizen, but almost 3 in 4 residents voted no. Recently, Holten’s second plea at gaining a passport fell on deaf ears as a majority again voted down the request.

Local elected official Tanja Suter is an out-spoken critic of the self-described “activist, model and freelance journalist,” stating that Holten “irritates us and does not respect our traditions.”

The case was recently moved to a higher council, with the Cantonal government of Aargau placed in charge of ruling on the woman’s request for at least a Swiss passport.


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