The Haab Motion: Hope for the Birds
National Councillor Martin Haab filed a motion against foie gras (motion 20.3021) with the National Council on Monday 2 March 2020.
The Federal Parliament in Bern
What is a motion?
A motion A motion is a parliamentary intervention that instructs the Federal Council to make a legislative proposal (click this link). To be transmitted to the Federal Council, it must be adopted by both Federal Chambers (adoption or rejection procedure). If adopted, the Federal Council must implement it (implementation procedure).
Procedure for adopting or rejecting the motion
Priority Council (first reading)
It is first examined by the board where it was filed (Priority Council).
The Federal Council then gives its opinion. It proposes to accept or reject the motion, as a rule no later than the beginning of the ordinary session following its submission.
The Priority Council may reject or adopt the motion. If the Priority Council rejects it, it is deemed to have been passed; if it adopts it, the motion is forwarded to the competent committee of the other Council (Second Council).
The committee of the second Council shall examine the motion beforehand. The Federal Council or the majority of the committee may propose to the second Council to amend the motion.
The second Council may adopt, reject or - a possibility not available to the first Council - amend the motion.
If the second Council adopts the motion without amending it, it is definitively adopted and the mandate to which it relates is entrusted to the Federal Council.
If the second Council rejects the motion, the motion is deemed to have been resolved.
If the motion is amended on a proposal of the Federal Council or by the majority of the screening committee, it is again forwarded to the Priority Council.
Priority Council (second reading)
The amended motion shall be submitted to the competent committee of the Priority Council for prior consideration.
The Priority Council may either approve the amendment made to the motion by the second Council or reject the motion definitively.
If the motion is adopted, it is forwarded to the Federal Council, which must implement it in accordance with the implementation procedure.
Simplified path of a motion (with National Council as Priority Council)
What is Haab's motion?
On 2 March 2020, during the spring session, Martin Haab filed motion 20.3021 entitled Banning the import of foie gras.
The proposed text
The Federal Council is instructed to make use of the power vested in it by Art. 14 para. 1 of the Animal Protection Act to ban the import of foie gras.
The following arguments are set out in the development of the text:
Almost all European countries prohibit force-feeding because of the suffering caused, including Switzerland (decided it over 40 years ago).
Force-feeding is animal abuse.
Swiss farmers are aggrieved because while the foie gras is imported, they are not allowed to produce it.
Surveys show that the majority of Swiss people agree with the ban.
Other places have already banned foie gras, for example New York.
There are alternatives.
The ban is compatible with international free trade agreements.
Switzerland must stop supporting this practice abroad.
Who is Haab?
Martin Haab, a farmer by profession, is an SVP National Councillor from Zurich. He has been a member of the National Council since 03.06.2019 and was re-elected in November 2019.
He is a member of the Commission for Science, Education and Culture (CSEC), which, among things, deals with animal-related issues.
He is also a delegate of the Swiss Farmers' Union.
Under the leadership of the Alliance Animale Suisse, he was suggested the idea of filing this motion. As a parliamentarian close to the farming community, the filing of this motion is logical because the importation of this product is unfair to Swiss farmers as they are denied the right to produce foie gras.
Alliance Animale Suisse is a coalition of animalist associations that acts in the political arena to push through parliamentary interventions regarding animals. Every year it awards the Triple A prize for animal protection to members of parliament who have worked for the animal cause.
According to a survey conducted by DemoScope for Stop Gavage Suisse and Four Paws Switzerland and Swiss customs figures, it is estimated that if foie gras was banned in Switzerland, Swiss farmers would get an additional turnover estimated to be at least CHF 40 million per year.
The real motivation of Alliance Animale Suisse behind this draft motion is to advance the animal cause, in particular by banning products whose production is already banned in Switzerland, as is the case with foie gras, but also fur and many other products of animal origin.
Alliance Animale Suisse is also behind a motion against fur filed in December 2019 by Matthias Aebischer (PS/BE) as well as a general motion calling for a ban on all animal products whose production is already banned in Switzerland, which was also filed in December 2019 by Lukas Reimann (SVP/SG) and which took up the motion filed in the previous legislature by Barbara Keller-Inhelder (SVP/SG).
Logo of Alliance Animale Suisse
As Martin Haab's motion directly concerns the mission of the Stop Gavage Switzerland association, we contacted Martin Haab as soon as we found out about the draft motion and met with him immediately after the motion was introduced.
We are of course very pleased with this progress in Parliament, because if the motion is adopted, we will have completed our mission to have foie gras banned in Switzerland, and all that remains to be done is to ensure that the new law is enforced.
So we are going to do everything possible to support this motion, particularly through intensive lobbying of parliamentarians.
The fact that Martin Haab is from the SVP is a great advantage for the success of the motion, as we are almost certain that it will gain the support of parliamentarians close to the farmers. It will also be easier to convince right-wing parliamentarians to vote for the motion.
Normally, the Greens, the Green Liberals and the PS should, at least in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, be in favour of the motion. It is thus considered that it should pass without too much difficulty through the National Council (the Priority Council in this case). The difficulty will most certainly lie in the Council of States.