A woman named Nancy Holten lives in small Swiss village of Gipf-Oberfrick, within the canton of Aargau, though she was born in the Netherlands. She journeyed with her family to Switzerland when she was eight, and at 42 she is still trying to get her passport.
Unfortunately, Holten has been campaigning in her area to liberate the local cows and pigs from the burden of racing while wearing traditional bells, and her ideological interests are interfering with her citizenship. The Independent reports that Holten is a vegan, and before applying for her passport, she spent time speaking publicly and passionately to the media about her cause:
“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.” she reportedly told the media.
“The animals carry around five kilograms around their neck. It causes friction and burns to their skin.”
The Local reports that Holten has also complained about the town’s church bells, so it may not be animal cruelty that motivates her so much as the noise. Holten’s application for citizenship was turned down by the local committee for the second time last November. According to 24 Heures, 200 of the 260 people who showed up for the communal assembly rejected her request for naturalization. The president of the local branch of the Swiss People’s Party, Tanya Suter, has said Holten has a “big mouth.”
Holten told The Local that she understands why some people have turned against her. “I think I was too strident and spoke my mind too often,” she said. “Many people think that I am attacking their traditions. But that was not what it was about, it was never about that. What primarily motivated me about the cowbells was the animals’ welfare.”
It is a sad situation for Holten, who is disappointed in the committee’s decision “because this really is my home. I grew up here and feel very attached to Switzerland.” She also pointed out that by denying the passport, her rights were being infringed upon. “The law states that freedom of expression must not have any negative consequences,” she said.
Urs Treier, a spokesman for the Gipf-Oberfrick administration, told The Local that it’s not so much her “freedom of expression” but her contact with the media that has frustrated the village’s citizens. “The reason why they have yet again clearly rejected the naturalization is that Nancy Holten very often expresses her personal opinion in the media,” he said, “and also gathers media coverage for rebelling against traditional [Swiss] things within the village.”
Holten’s application may still be approved, overriding the village’s objections, as it is now in the hands of Aargau’s cantonal government. Though she understands why those objections arose, Holten has no plans to stop protesting the bells.