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Switzerland Refused a Vegan Woman Citizenship For Being Too Annoying

Animal rights activist Nancy Holten is campaigning against cowbells, and the Swiss are taking it personally.

by Katherine Gillespie
11 January 2017, 10:55pm

A longtime resident of Switzerland has been refused a passport because of her outspoken campaign against cowbells. Vegan animal rights activist Nancy Holten, who was born in the Netherlands but has lived in Switzerland since she was eight years old, has been labelled a "big mouth" by the resident committee in her village that has rejected her citizenship application twice.

Holten's argument? Wearing heavy metal bells around their necks is causing Switzerland's roaming cows physical pain and distress. Switzerland's argument? Cows look damn good in bells, especially when they're roaming around in the picturesque alps. Also, tourists are charmed by them.

In Switzerland, citizenship applications are partially assessed by a committee of residents who live in the same district as the applicant. It would appear that Holten is unpopular among some in her village of Gipf-Oberfrick, with a local representative of the Swiss People's Party Tanja Suter telling the Swiss media that she "annoys us and doesn't respect our traditions."

Cow bells aren't the only cause on Holten's mind. The self-described freelance journalist, author, model and drama student has staged multiple campaigns against other beloved national pastimes like hunting and piglet racing. According to Swiss news site The Local, the sounds of church bells irritate her too. Does this woman even eat Lindt balls? 

Holten, who speaks fluent German, is not the first person to be refused Swiss citizenship on cultural grounds. In 2016, a Kosovan family who had lived in the village of Bubendorf for ten years were refused citizenship because a committee objected to their frequent wearing of tracksuits around town. In 2014, an American man who had lived in Switzerland for 43 years was rejected on the basis of not being able to correctly name the lakes in his district.

While she's devastated to be refused Swiss citizenship, Holten has vowed to continue her fight against cowbells. "I am still committed to what is important to me. Especially for the animals in particular.  Their well-being is important to me," she said. "If I stop doing it any more, I am not being genuine and honest. So I will not stop just for the sake of the Swiss passport."

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