Nancy Holten, 42, a vegan and supporter of animal rights, has seen her request of Swiss citizenship refused for the second time. She lives in a village within the canton of Aargau.
Holten was born in the Netherlands, moved to Switzerland when she was 8. She is fluent in Swiss German and her children have Swiss citizenship. She gained a reputation in her community after campaigning against cowbells, claiming they were damaging to cows’ health. She has also objected to hunting and piglet racing, and complained about the noise of church bells in the village.
She has spoken to the press several times regarding her campaigns. “The sound that cowbells make is a hundred decibel. It is comparable to a pneumatic drill. We also would not want such a thing hanging close to our ears,” said Holten.
In Switzerland, local residents have a say in a person’s passport application, which are decided primarily by the cantons and communes where the applicant lives, rather than federal authorities.
Holten’s first attempt at naturalization was made in 2015, when she was approved by local authorities but rejected by 144 out of 206 residents in a vote. Her second attempt at naturalization was rejected in November.
Disappointed with the committee’s decision Holten said, “I think I was too strident and spoke my mind too often.” She further added that Switzerland is her home and a place where she has friends, relatives and work. Her intention had not been to attack Swiss traditions but that, in the case of the cowbell, her complaints had been motivated by animal welfare.
The president of the local Swiss People’s Party, Tanja Suter, claims Holten has a “big mouth” and residents had not wanted to give her the gift of citizenship “if she annoys us and doesn’t respect our traditions.”
Urs Treier, a spokesperson for the local government administration in the village, says residents know the legal requirements for Holten’s naturalization have been met, but that if a person who puts themselves in the spotlight and rebels against accepted traditions in a local community, it can cause the community to not want such a person in their midst. He further said her actions have caused many in the village to wonder why Holten would want to be Swiss.
Holten is not ready to give up her campaigning in order to smooth things over with her neighbors.
“The law states that freedom of expression must not have any negative consequences,” she said.
Her application is now in the hands of Aargau’s cantonal government, which could still decide to grant her citizenship despite residents’ objections.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Gus Ruelas