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UPDATE 1-Swiss on course to reject initiative to ban factory farming

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By Cecile Mantovani

GENEVA, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Swiss voters were on track on Sunday to reject a proposal to ban factory farming in a referendum on whether the wealthy country's strict animal welfare laws need to be tightened yet further, initial results showed.

By 13.45 p.m. (1145 GMT), results reported on the government's VoteInfo App showed 66.19% against the proposal, voted on under the Swiss system of direct democracy, to make protecting the dignity of farm animals such as cattle, chickens and pigs a constitutional requirement.

VoteInfo takes rolling voting results data collated by the Federal Statistics Office and updates constantly from midday.

"I've voted no," said Geneva resident Fabrice Drouin.

"There are farmers who are doing intensive farming with their animals but they are respecting animal welfare and to feed the population, we have to do factory farming, at least a little, otherwise, we won't be able to eat meat anymore."

In a second referendum, the Swiss were narrowly on track to vote in favour of a planned reform of old-age insurance, which among other things would raise the retirement age for women to 65 from 64.

The farming proposal would require the government to set stricter rules for caring for animals, including giving them access to the outdoors, and for slaughtering them. The requirements would also cover imported animals and animal products.

The government recommended against the proposal, saying such changes would breach trade accords, increase investment and operating costs, and boost food prices.

"I think in general, people are regulating themselves on their own," said Geneva resident Florian Barbon who opposed the initiative. "I don't think we need a legal framework for this." (Reporting by Cecile Mantovani Writing by Paul Carrel; editing by David Evans)

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