Photo credit: Helena Lopes

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

This BBC article covers one Swiss village’s struggle with the ongoing sound of cowbells, perceived by most outsiders as a pleasant part of any pastoral environment. Writer Imogen Foulkes notes that we tend to associate pastures with quiet but then quickly alerts us that some farm sounds can be loud and disturbing to people living nearby. We learn about the charming Swiss town of Aarwangen, where the cows still wear loud bells around their necks so that the owners know where they are. Other Swiss farmers have replaced the bells with electronic chips, a modern method that allows them to keep track of the cows, and others remove the bells at night. But the farmers in Aarwangen do not want to install chips in their cows.

New residents have moved into Aarwangen, and they have complained that they are being disturbed by the loud bells at night. Two families filed complaints with the village council asking the farmers to remove the bells at night. What followed was a protest from the farmers and long-term residents of the town. Signatures were collected to keep the bells, considered by many to be a part of the tradition of the town. Residents also called the request an attack on their culture and identity.

Aarwangen is now preparing for a public meeting to vote on the cowbells issue. However, one of the individuals who complained about the bells has withdrawn the complaint and the other person moved away. After over 1,000 residents signed a petition to keep the cowbells, do you think the village council will vote to silence the bells?