Poo smell in the country is legal: court

Just when you thought German courts had ruled on every question ever posed by man, you realized they missed one: Is the countryside allowed to stink of dung? And if so, how much?

Poo smell in the country is legal: court
Roosters can poo all they want. No ruling yet on how loudly they can crow. Photo: DPA

In a ruling that will come as a relief to all those who like to have their nostrils filled the authentic smell of farm work when in the country, North Rhine-Westphalia’s highest administrative court ruled on Monday that bad smells are part-and-parcel of agriculture.

The ruling was made after neighbours in Kleve, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), complained about a farmer’s plans to extend his chicken hatches. The poultry’s poo, they argued would pollute their air.

The judges had discussed whether there should be an upper limit on just how bad the countryside can smell.

At first an administrative court in Düsseldorf came down on the side of the plaintiffs, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

But the senior court was having none of it. While stopping short of accusing the plaintiffs of muckraking, they argued that the countryside is the countryside and people there are already used to the smell of dung – or had better get used to it fast.

The decision was a so-called Grundsatzurteil – a ruling which establishes a judicial principle.

The judges argued that the plaintiffs were themselves farmers or at least had been and in this respect had done their own share of muck shoveling in the past. They said that in places where bad smells are a fact of life, stronger and longer lasting smells are something which inhabitants should be able to cope with.

In this regard they distinguished between farming areas, where the inhabitants have built a certain tolerance for bad odours, as opposed to villages and larger settlements.

A spokesperson for the Farmers Association for Kleve told The Local that complaints over the stink from farms is an “everyday problem” in North Rhine Westphalia.

“What is unusual, although not unheard of, is that the argument is between farmers,” the spokesperson said.

He declined however to go into the details of the conflict between the farmers in this case.

“Every fifth German lives in NRW and there are 35,000 farms here so there are always problems because villages lie so close to pig sties and other livestock,” he said

But he rejected the idea that NRW is a state with an odour problem.

“Whether it stinks or not here has nothing to do with the debate. There are very clear guidelines and the court ruled in favour of the extension of the farm,” he said.


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Germany’s Scheffelbrücke: Everything you need to know about the ‘world’s most expensive bridge’

Germany's Scheffelbrücke might not seem like much to look at, but by some accounts it is the most expensive bridge in the world. Here’s what you need to know.

Germany's Scheffelbrücke: Everything you need to know about the ‘world’s most expensive bridge’
The Scheffelbrücke in Baden-Württemburg isn't known for its astounding beauty or engineering prowess - but it is known for its price tag. Photo: Heinz Seehagel, Creative Commons.

If you’re travelling near the Swiss border, you might come across the Scheffelbrücke – a quiet, two-lane bridge over the Radolfzeller Aach in Baden-Württemburg. 

By bridge standards, the 20-metre concrete construction seems relatively unremarkable – until you take a look at the engraved sign on the side which quotes the price tag. 

A sign on the bridge references the incredible price of the bridge: 1,520,940,901,926,024 Deutschmarks. 

That’s 1,500 trillion marks. 

Why is the Scheffelbrücke Germany’s most expensive bridge – and why is it so drab?

While Germany has the money and the landscape to have some expensive bridges, that over the Aach hardly rivals the Golden Gate, London Bridge or Sydney Harbour for elegance or ingenuity. 

The bridge, completed in 1923, takes the name of Joseph Victor von Scheffel, a German writer who will forever be associated with the glorified concrete slab. 

While one might suspect pork barrelling or crafty accounting as a reason for the astonishing cost – or perhaps a trick to reel in the tourists to the otherwise unassuming village of Singen – the cost is in fact real.

The high price is a consequence of the out of control post-World War One inflation which hit Germany, where money almost completely lost its value. 

A sign for the bridge reveals its extortionate building costs. Photo: Heinz Seehagel, Creative Commons.

Local authorities, wanting to boost the economy, signed off on the bridge as an infrastructure project. 

As a consequence, some local workers presumably became millionaires as a consequence – although there was perhaps little meaning to the idea of being a millionaire when a billion would only buy you a concrete bridge. 

Fortunately, Germany was able to bring inflation under control and wheelbarrows full of money were no longer required to purchase basic things.

And almost a century later, when not taking wacky inflation into account, Germany’s ‘most expensive bridge in the world’ no longer has that title. 

That goes to the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco (no, not the Golden Gate but the other one), which cost 6.3 billion US dollars – or roughly 5.2 billion euro  – to build. 

The Oakland Bay Bridge however goes for eight kilometres and possesses some of the aesthetic qualities which one would expect from the most expensive bridge in the world.