Think of the cows: clocks go forward for the last time in Russia

Think of the cows: clocks go forward for the last time in Russia

Spring Forward

Cows will be calmer, doctors happier and crooks less active.

That’s the thinking as Russia puts forward its clocks for the last time this weekend.

Leading the way in an incipient global trend that rejects the notion of changing the clocks in spring and autumn, the Russian authorities believe the move will reduce human – and animal – misery.

It means Russia, which stretches across nine time zones from Kaliningrad in Europe to the Kamchatka peninsula in the Pacific, will stay permanently on summer time from this Sunday, gaining extra daylight in the afternoons during its seemingly interminable winter.

The president, Dmitry Medvedev, said Russians were fed up with the time changes because they caused “stress and illnesses” and “upset the human biorhythm”.

“It’s irritating, people wake up early and don’t know what to do with themselves for the spare hour,” he said. “And that’s not to mention the unhappy cows and other animals that don’t understand the clocks changing and don’t understand why the milkmaids come to them at a different time.”

The only other country in Europe without switches to and from daylight saving time is Iceland, but Belarus and Ukraine are also considering abandoning the system.

Some critics suggested it was a populist move by the Kremlin to distract from more serious social issues, but many experts supported the idea.

Arkady Tishkov, a geography professor and member of the working group that advised cancelling twice-yearly time adjustments, said they provoked a litany of problems, including disruption of sleep patterns, aggravation of chronic diseases and increased traffic accidents.

“During the period of the clocks changing, the number of heart attacks increases by 50% and the number of suicides by 66%,” he said. Crime will also drop when the clocks are not put back in October because thieves are less active during daylight hours, Tishkov added.

Tatyana Rybalova, head of the research centre of Russia’s National Union of Milk Producers, told the Guardian that Medvedev was right to highlight the effect on livestock. “It’s true that cows are a lot more sensitive than humans to the changing of the clocks,” she said.

“I remember when daylight saving time was introduced in the Soviet times, there were protests by milkmaids in Novosibirsk and Omsk. It seemed to particularly upset the cows in Siberia.”

Russia is not blazing a lonely trail. Chile delayed its switch to winter time for three weeks to 2 April because of a looming energy crisis following drought and falling water levels in reservoirs serving hydroelectric plants. The time delay caused problems as clocks, mobiles and laptops flipped back an hour automatically.

It was the third recent occasion on which Chile had pushed back a time change to save energy. The first was in 2008, when there was another drought, while the second, last year, added daylight to help cope with the aftermath of Chile’s own earthquake and tsunami in February 2010.

In Australia, a small single-issue party, Daylight Saving for South East Queensland, is also gearing up for what it hopes will be a wave of support for its demands when the state parliament debates a bill seeking a referendum on the issue, probably next month or in May. It wants the state split into two time zones – so that the south-east of the state – where, it says, the population wants more evening daylight for business and the outdoor lifestyle – can go its own way.

In Britain, the daylight savings bill going through parliament is pressing for a government review of how and when the clocks are changed. MPs are collecting evidence on benefits and pitfalls of the idea, which is being promoted by Lighter Later, part of the 10:10 climate change campaign.

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