Who cares about cows?

swiss-pastoral-countrysideFarm bills and agricultural subsidies are always a big deal, from the US to the EU, and definitely in Switzerland. This baffled me a bit. Swiss agriculture? In a country that wealthy and stable (take my word for it, or come on tour with me and I’ll explain) why are a few cows such a big deal?


The answer I always gave was national identity. The people of Country X want to see themselves as coming from pastoral roots. This didn’t make a ton of sense to me, since if you didn’t grow up on a farm why do you need to feel like your nation did? But I’m used to not quite understanding identity politics since I come from the rampantly, disastrously, shamefully dominant demographic set. Straight, white, middle-class, American male with full health, mobility, education etc? Having every advantage in life reduced the need for an identity to process it.


But other people will talk about such things until….(wait for it)…the cows come home.


swiss-cows-edThat expression was always a mystery to me. I’d picture farmers chatting on the porch until the cows meandered home in the evening light. Or was it that the cows would never come home on their own, so you’d talk forever? That could be, too, but let’s go with something else.


Because it’s wearing a floral headdress.


Every spring, the farmers throughout the Alps drive their cows up to higher pasture for the summer. They stay up there eating rich green grass and justifying Alphorns for the warm sunny months, giving some folks time off to talk endlessly (hence the phrase, I’m thinking) while a few heroes of national identity up in the mountain meadows churn butter and coagulate protein. (Ain’t that just the sexiest phrasing I could have chosen for cheese-making?)


swiss-cow-processionLeave it to this last tour group I had, with their preternatural luck and timing, to arrive just in time for the almabtrieb, or viehscheid, the annual parade of cows returning from summer pasture. It was stupendous. The cows, dressed in their finest and caring not one udder about it, paraded through town in a ceremonious way that was most a-moo-sing. (You’re welcome.)


So what? So some cows walked through town, why should I blog about it, and why should legislatures spend so much time on ag issues?


In this year of an insane US presidential candidate, United Kingdomers choosing to leave the most successful diplomatic structure in European history, and Colombians voting to reject peace in favor of punitive measures and further bloodshed, well, it’s damn fine to sit back in the sun and watch something so hearty, so earnest, so down-home rustically peaceful and reassuring as a parade of decorated cows coming home.swiss-mountainscape


Is it worth it? All the tax revenue spent to prolong a procession of bovine ladies and tractors of cheese? Well, it did me good, and the whole town with me, so I guess the fiscal considerations are a moooo-t point.