by Helena Bachmann, Special for USA TODAY
GENEVA — It took a thirsty herd of cows to prompt the first dispute between Switzerland and its French neighbors since Napoleon invaded the Alpine country in 1798.
The small French town of Les Rousses has a beef with the Swiss army for “invading” the local lake and “nabbing” its water to quench the thirst of Switzerland’s cattle.
It is true that since last week, the Swiss military mobilized to airlift water to about 20,000 cows grazing on mountain pastures and to set up water tanks for the livestock. An average cow, it seems, gulps about 40 gallons of water a day, and the recent heat wave and dry spell have caused water shortages.
The government-funded operation, which has already delivered thousands of gallons of water to thirsty bovines, is supposed to get its supply from Swiss lakes. But according to the French newspaper Le Parisien, Les Rousses’ residents were shocked to see Swiss army helicopters hovering over their lake. “To save its cows, Switzerland steals water from France,” the newspaper claimed.
So, did neutral Switzerland really fly into France illegally, or was it just a mistake? (It wouldn’t be the first time. Several years ago, 170 armed Swiss soldiers got lost in the dark and wandered into neighboring Liechtenstein.)
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Source: USA Today