Switzerland, a nation in central Europe (the official name of the country is the Swiss Confederation, and the Latin translation of this, Confoederatio Helvetica, is where the .ch in Swiss URLs comes from), is so remote from European wars (due to their location deep in the Alps) that they can pretend to have "neutrality," has "cantons," banks, clocks, chocolate, neutrality, uses four languages but only one of its own (Romansch), and if you say it seven times in a row, has no meaning (did we mention they are neutral yet?). Another language spoken there is Swiss German, which is pretty much impossible for Germans to understand despite having "German" in the name. Four hundred years of peace, democracy, and brotherly love, and what did they invent?
The cuckoo clock. And drug companies that produce new medicines to treat diseases. And the numbered bank account, beloved of tyrants, dictators and criminals the world over.
Despite its famous neutrality in modern times, Switzerland was once the mercenary capital of Europe, providing some of the toughest armies and most innovative military tactics of the late Middle Ages and Early Modern eras. It wasn't until the Spanish started using guns against their traditional pikes that Swiss dominance ended at the Battle of Bicocca in 1522. At the end of the Napoleonic era, Switzerland was recognised as a unified and independent country, became strictly neutral, and forbade its subjects from mercenary activity, with one exception - namely, protecting this one guy.
The country is especially noteworthy for legislation on behalf of animal rights, some good, others in full Poe. In 2008, Switzerland granted new rights to all "social animals" - prospective dog owners must have to take a four-hour course on pet care before buying one. Rhinoceroses cannot be kept in an enclosure that is smaller than 600 square yards; violation of this rule imposes a fine of 200 Swiss francs (175 USD). The government makes it compulsory for anglers to catch fish humanely: in Switzerland fishes can't be kept in aquariums that are transparent on all sides, believing this harms the "dignity of fishes." In particular, goldfishes cannot be killed in a "disrespectful" manner. Before killing, fish must be anesthetized first. Switzerland also is the first country is the world to officially recognize the concept of plant rights.
In 1893, Switzerland banned "Shechita," the ritual slaughter of animals according to Jewish dietary laws. Anti-Semitic motives might have played more of a role than the concern for the animals' well being.
The Swiss are often used as a case study by gun nuts in the States for laxer firearm laws, pointing to Switzerland's extremely high rate of gun ownership and comparative lack of violent crime. However, Switzerland's seemingly loose gun laws come with certain rules that they would go batshit over. In Switzerland, possession of guns by civilians is for the defense of the country, not the defense of individuals or their families. Most Swiss guns are military weapons issued to young men after their compulsory military service, and they are required to train with them as part of their continued service in the national militia system, ready to be called on by the government in the event of invasion or other disaster. Each of Switzerland's 26 cantons has its own gun registry, and as of 2007, all ammunition must be kept in a public armory. Furthermore, while violent street crime is rare, there are more domestic homicides and suicides with a firearm in Switzerland than virtually anywhere else in Europe except Finland.
In 2009, Switzerland voted for a referendum which banned the building of minarets.
Insane defense schemes
Decades after the end of the Cold War, Switzerland still builds and maintains enough fallout shelters for every citizen, and most pieces of infrastructure in the country are rigged to explode in the case of being commandeered by the enemy. This would make it a survivalist's dream, except that everyone else around them would be equally prepared and armed and ready to reinstate a regular society, and where's the fun in that?
- The cuckoo clock actually originates from the Black Forest in Germany. Thank Orson Welles for that myth.
- Gautam Naik, Switzerland's Green Power Revolution: Ethicists Ponder Plants' Rights, The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2008.
- BBC article on Swiss gun regulations
- BBC News Report: Three dead in Swiss factory shooting
- The Nazis are going to invade us, just like they didn't do in WWII!