The pigsty is in Schongau in Lucerne.
Thomas Müller (text) and Siggi Bucher (photos)
The air is cool and fresh, you can’t smell the pigs. It’s different in the summer, says Markus Kretz (46) when Blick visits the farm. When the wind blows down the valley, it carries the smell into the village.
Schongau is the name of the small community on the outskirts of Lucerne. Here Markus Kretz and Christian Muff (42) run a farm together. Kretz keeps cows, Muff takes care of pig breeding. The pigsty is just outside the village in a hamlet, a small cluster of houses.
In and out independently
A good hundred sows with piglets, gilts and a boar have their home here. You can get in and out of the covered courtyard independently. The animals simply push open the door in the stable wall with their snout. At the moment they prefer to be inside because of the cold weather.
Muff and Kretz are very familiar with their pigs. If you enter the barn, the animals will come straight to you, nibble on your clothes and let yourself be petted. “Sometimes in the evening I’ll come to the finches in the barn to see if everything’s all right,” says Muff.
The risk of complaints increases with newcomers
Although you rarely smell the pigs outside, if someone from the neighborhood complained about the farm because the smell bothers them, the farmers would have a problem. They would have to prove with an expert opinion that one cannot smell their pigs excessively. According to Kretz an impossibility.
And the village is growing – there are already new single-family houses on the upper edge. New people are moving here who didn’t grow up farming. With every move, the risk of a complaint increases.
If the complaint comes, the outlet is ready
If one of these flutters into the house one day, it would be over with the spout for the pillars. All the windows would have to be bolted, the doors closed. And for around 100,000 francs, a ventilation system would have to be found. All investments in animal welfare that have been made in recent years: for nothing.
Fortunately, the farmers get along well with their neighbors. Those who already live around the farm are rooted in agriculture. For example Raphael Stutz (33). He is not a farmer, but at the moment he is looking at the calves from Kretz. It doesn’t bother him if he smells the pigs every now and then. “It’s part of country life.”
Many farms affected
But the danger remains. In Meggen LU, a stable had to close because of a complaint. And soon there could be complaints, because hamlet zones are being abolished nationwide. Up until now, Kretz and Muff’s farm has been in one of those. This special zone preserves the hamlet but prevents new neighbors and thus complaints.
But it’s not just about Kretz and Muff’s farm. In the hamlet of Niederschongau alone, four farms would be affected. There are likely to be many more throughout the canton. Because Lucerne is the canton of pigs. “Every third sow lives in Lucerne,” says Kretz.
Issue of rezoning
The end of the hamlet zone in Niederschongau threatens peace in the neighbourhood. The area must be declared either a village zone or an agricultural zone by the voters. If a village zone is decided upon, the risk of an odor complaint increases. In the case of an agricultural zone, on the other hand, the residents are at a disadvantage – then the existing buildings may be renovated, but extensions or new buildings would be prohibited.
“We don’t want to prevent a village zone,” says Kretz. But: «With the current rules, there is only black or white. If apartments are rented or sold, more people come and with each person the risk of someone complaining increases. »
Currently, one side has to lose at the end. Even if it is contractually agreed that the smell is simply part of it – public law cannot be overridden. Conflicts are inevitable.
Farmers want to prevent that. At Muff’s table – there are pigs here too, but only made of plastic and porcelain – they present their solution: “It needs an odor overlay zone,” explains Kretz, who is also President of the Lucerne Farmers’ Association, and spreads out plans and tables.
His idea is based on noise overburden zones: If someone is building near a motorway or similar sources of noise that were already there, then they have to accept the noise. “We would like to introduce the same into the environmental protection law for odors,” says Kretz. Then the community could develop further and still protect the livestock farms.
Hoping for politics
Animal rights activists and farmers don’t always have the best connection to each other, but here they agree. The Animal in Law Foundation complains: Animal welfare is “completely left out” in the Environmental Protection Act today.
Kretz’s idea made it to Bern: Lucerne National Councilor Leo Müller (64, FDP) submitted a proposal to the large chamber, Councilor of States Jakob Stark (64, SVP) to Stöckli. Now farmers, residents and the Säuli are hoping for politics.