A vegan woman has twice had her application for Swiss citizenship rejected because annoyed locals object to her “loud” opinions about animal rights.
Nancy Holten, 42, has lived in Switzerland for more than 30 years. There, applications for citizenship are determined by local governments — sometimes with input from residents.
And among the requirements are that a person speaks Swiss, is integrated in the Swiss way of life and familiar with Swiss customs and traditions.
And therein lies the issue the residents of Gipf-Oberfrick have with Holten.
She’s repeatedly spoken out in the media against cowbells, church bells, hunting and other traditions — which the residents consider Swiss values.
So, the municipality turned down her application for citizenship in 2015 and again last year.
“Shortly before [the applications] she had begun to fight against various Swiss values such as church bells, cowbells, livestock farming, hunting, pig racing, eating meat, circus animals, mouse-catching, giving out milk at school, etc. She did this above all in the media,” Urs Treier, a spokesman for the municipal council, told CNN.
Treier said the rejection was “on the basis that a person who sets themselves against so many of Switzerland’s shared values, practices and traditions, and does this in person, directly and above all, loudly, in the press, should not be granted citizenship.”
Meets criteria, but not approval
Gipf-Oberfrick is a municipality in the northern Switzerland with a population of about 3,500.
“Gipf-Oberfrick is rural and there are farmers and conservative residents here. They aren’t used to green topics being discussed so openly,” Holten told CNN. “As a vegan, I campaign publicly for animals. That annoys a lot of people.”
“It also bothers them that I’ve been (and continue to be) in the media so much. I do this in order to make people think more about the issue of animal protection. That’s my wish.”
Holten describes herself as as a freelance journalist, model and drama student. She says she’s against cowbells because she believes they damage the animals’ health. A 2014 research report from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in suggest the bells can make bovines deaf.
She also believes church bells are too noisy and unnecessary.
Holten said she meets all the criteria for citizenship. And Treier agrees.
He told CNN Holten’s applications were rejected despite the municipal and cantonal authorities having no formal objection, and Holten meeting all legal requirements. He added this is the first time in 20 years that Gipf-Oberfrick has blocked such an application.
Holten is now appealing to the government of the canton of Aargau, which oversees Gipf-Oberfrick. Treier expects her appeal will be upheld.
“Nancy Holten’s attitude speaks to her personal view of the world. In Switzerland, the freedom of expression is enshrined in law. Citizenship cannot be denied on the basis of personal opinion,” he said.