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Photo via Nancy Holten/Facebook

‘Annoying’ vegan denied Swiss citizenship over animal activism

Locals say her lifestyle keeps her from being 'well-integrated' into Swiss society.


Jaya Saxena


Posted on Jan 12, 2017   Updated on May 25, 2021, 5:28 am CDT

A Dutch woman has been denied naturalization in Switzerland, all because her animal rights activism has made her unpopular with the locals. Despite living in Switzerland since she was eight and having children with Swiss citizenship, Nancy Holten’s lifestyle “annoys us,” said one citizen.

In Switzerland, a committee of residents is allowed to vote on the naturalization of members of the community, as the issues are often decided by local cantons rather than the federal government. And this is the second time Holten’s been denied.

Holten describes herself on Facebook as a journalist and a model, and she regularly speaks about animal cruelty in the media. What’s rubbed some of her neighbors the wrong way is her public “attacks” on Swiss traditions she believes hurt animals. She has condemned hunting, piglet racing, and the tradition of making cows wear bells, which has worked its way into Swiss folklore and ceremony. Holten claims it is bad for the cows’ health.

“I know that I’m tackling traditions that are very important in a rural community. But I claim my freedom to think differently and express it. My convictions have nothing to do with my integration,” Holten told 24 Heures (translated). 

The Daily Dot reached out to Holten about the vote and has yet to hear back. But one local defended her decision, saying, “We do not want to give her this gift if she annoys us and does not respect our traditions.”

Issues of citizenship and belonging are ever pressing, especially when the bar of “respecting traditions” clashes with people’s own cultural and religious beliefs. Holten is still probably safe in Switzerland—she may be unpopular, but she speaks the language, adheres to other cultural norms, and looks the part. That’s not so for many immigrants of different races and religions, who want to keep their own traditions and beliefs in a new country, and who are often threatened if they don’t, won’t, or can’t assimilate.

Swiss provisions for citizenship are pretty strict. Until recently, women would lose their citizenship if they married foreigners. They require anyone applying for citizenship be “well-integrated, law-abiding and not endanger Switzerland’s external or internal security,” but it appears the “well-integrated” part can be highly subjective. 

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*First Published: Jan 12, 2017, 10:45 am CST