EXPLAINED: What is Denmark’s ‘cow spring break’ all about?

Organic farms in Denmark released cows from barns at 12pm on Sunday, with the animals roaming enthusiastically onto the fields as tens of thousands of spectators looked on.

EXPLAINED: What is Denmark's 'cow spring break' all about?
Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix

The annual tradition of celebrating the end of cows’ winter enclosure took place at midday on Sunday, when cows were released on to the grass at 59 organic farms across the country.

The event gives the public an important chance to see agriculture at first-hand, said Per Kølster, chairperson of interest organisation Økologisk Landsforening (National Organic Association).

“This is about being open, trustworthy and about the good feeling that can come from seeing these wonderful animals when they jump around on the grass,” Kølster told Ritzau.

“The trust upon which organic is built can be seen with your own eyes,” he added.

Last year, over 200,000 people in Denmark went to see the release of the cows at farms around the country.

Kølster said his assessment was that just as many had turned out this year to see the event sometimes referred to as the ‘cows’ spring break’.

“Interest is actually huge. That’s down to the animals. And this is because their joy is so clear,” he said.

Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix

The head of Økologisk Landsforening said he was in no doubt as to why the cows reacted as they did, running out on to the grass and jumping up and down to the delight of spectators.

“It can only be explained by one thing, and that’s excitement. They know that spring is coming. It’s just like a racing horse flying out of the traps,” he said.

“They only have one thing on their minds, and that’s to get out there and experience the grass. It’s very energetic,” he added.

Not everyone shares Kølster’s enthusiasm for the event. Local media TV2 Østjylland reported that vegans attended events in protest, while activist organisation Vegan Change was critical of what it likened to a 'Disneyfication' of agriculture.

“(Visitors) don’t see that cows walk around in cow dung for the rest of the year, or that they are damaged by all of the milk they are forced to produce. They don’t see calves and mothers being separated after 24 hours, or when cows are sent to the slaughter and are killed by a bolt pistol to the head and a knife to the throat,” Sophia Nox, a spokesperson for the group, told TV2 Østjylland.

Kølster told the media that it was the “clear democratic right” of vegans to demonstrate.

“The vegans’ project is very respectable. It’s fine for them to take a critical view of agriculture. But I can’t imagine farmers would show up to demonstrate at a day of celebration for vegans,” he said.

READ ALSO: Escaped cows cause chaos on Copenhagen highway

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WTO rules US tariffs on Spanish olives breach rules

A US decision to slap steep import duties on Spanish olives over claims they benefited from subsidies constituted a violation of international trade rules, the World Trade Organisation ruled Friday.

WTO rules US tariffs on Spanish olives breach rules
Farmers had just begun harvesting olives in southern Spain when former US President Donald Trump soured the mood with the tariffs' announcement. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

Former US president Donald Trump’s administration slapped extra tariffs on Spain’s iconic agricultural export in 2018, considering their olives were subsidised and being dumped on the US market at prices below their real value.

The combined rates of the anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties go as high as 44 percent.

The European Commission, which handles trade policy for the 27 EU states, said the move was unacceptable and turned to the WTO, where a panel of experts was appointed to examine the case.

In Friday’s ruling, the WTO panel agreed with the EU’s argument that the anti-subsidy duties were illegal.

But it did not support its stance that the US anti-dumping duties violated international trade rules.

The panel said it “recommended that the United States bring its measures into conformity with its obligations”.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis hailed the ruling, pointing out that the US duties “severely hit Spanish olive producers.”

Demonstrators take part in a 2019 protest in Madrid, called by the olive sector
Demonstrators take part in a 2019 protest in Madrid called by the olive sector to denounce low prices of olive oil and the 25 percent tariff that Spanish olives and olive oil faced in the United States. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

“We now expect the US to take the appropriate steps to implement the WTO ruling, so that exports of ripe olives from Spain to the US can resume under normal conditions,” he said.

The European Commission charges that Spain’s exports of ripe olives to the United States, which previously raked in €67 million ($75.6 million) annually, have shrunk by nearly 60 percent since the duties were imposed.

The office of the US Trade Representative in Washington did not immediately comment on the ruling.

According to WTO rules, the parties have 60 days to file for an appeal.

If the United States does file an appeal though, it would basically amount to a veto of the ruling.

That is because the WTO Appellate Body — also known as the supreme court of world trade — stopped functioning in late 2019 after Washington blocked the appointment of new judges.