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For Whom the Cow Bell Tolls

Tuesday 05 May 2015

A couple who brought a legal action against a farmer about noise nuisance from a cow bell have lost their case in the French courts.

A couple were owners of a house they occupied as their permanent home, which was located next to a field a local farmer used for pasturing her cattle, one of which carried a bell around its neck.

At a court hearing in the local tribunal in Saint Étienne the couple brought a legal action to require that the farmer removed the bell from the cow and paid the couple €200 in damages.

The couple claimed that the noise from the cow bell perturbed their nervous system and their sleep.

In court the farmer stated that, as a result of professional advise they had taken, they had replaced the metal bell casing with a solid rubber casing, substantially reducing the noise it made.

The also stated that the couple were the only persons to complain about the noise, and that the bell was indispensable for managing the cow herd.

The tribunal found in favour of the complaints, a ruling that was challenged by the farmer to the court of appeal sitting in Lyon.

At the appeal hearing the farmer did not contest that on a 12 hectare pasture it was inexplicable that the cow carrying the bell choose to regularly remain in close proximity to the house. However, the noise from the bell was intermittant and attenuated.

In addition, they stated that the noise complaint was based solely on the statement by the daughter of the owners, who provided no witness statement from a huissier (official bailiff) nor any other technical monitoring, thereby permitting the court to measure on an objective basis the noise being heard from their house.

Nor could it be established by the complaint that the bell had been put around the cow for any malicious intent.

The medical certificates that had been produced, whilst proving the various medical pathologes of which the owners suffered, did not demonstrate a link with the neighbour problems about which they had complained.

Accordingly, the court dismissed the complaint.

The couple might well have done better had they produced research carried out in Switzerland which showed that the bells around the famous Alpine cows damaged the hearing of the cows that wear them, and that the bells disturbed their feeding habits.

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