French hillside town erupts in fury over Brit cow bell complaints

Published:  2 Oct at 6 PM
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Local farmers in the pretty hillside town of Biot aren’t best pleased with their British neighbours after they complained the cows’ bells were too loud.

The charming small French town of Biot, set close by Lake Geneva, is home to a number of British second home owners and expats attracted by its setting and laid-back lifestyle. The town is a mostly agricultural community, with its chalets surrounded by gently-sloping fields leading down towards the lake.

Cows wander the fields fronting the chalets and, for the farmers, life goes on as it always has, or at least it did until the Brit community petitioned for removal of the cows as their bells were disturbing the peace! In a letter to the local mayor, the 20 expat residents pointed out the noise of cow bells close by their homes and on the slopes was ‘unbearable’. It added they realise they’re in the countryside and the bells are a tradition for farmers, but cow bells are 'not really necessary as the animals are in a field'.

Unsurprisingly, the letter sparked fury amongst local farmers and most of the rest of Biot’s residents, as well as confusion and bemusement in the town hall. The mayor, Henri-Victor Tournier, told reporters he though there were worse noises than cow bells, adding that he might have understood if permanent residents rather than second-home owners had raised the issue.

The area’s farmers, however, are furious with the Brits, with 400 turning up at a protest to register their disgust. Owner of the cows and their bells Sebastian Vittoz told mainstream French newspaper Le Figaro the bells are a tool of his job as they help him find his beasties when they stray. He said his land covers some 62 acres and the cows have free range. Occasionally, he added, even with the bells it’s tricky to trace them and grazing them at a lower altitude saves €8,000 a year.

After the article in Le Figaro was published, support for the farmers came in from across the world, with a petition in favour of the mayor signed by 116,000 cow bell lovers. One supporter said the Brits should leave Biot, rent a desert island and complain about the sound of the waves at high tide. The complaint was finally thrown out after none of the Brits turned up at a town hall meeting, but the cows’ water trough is to be moved 150 metres from the chalets and new buyers will be advised about the bells.
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