Italian police did (if you ask me) did the right think in breaking up a banquet of bear meat hosted by the Northern League, a coalition partner of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Bear hunting is banned in Italy and bears are almost extinct there. There are now about 35 brown bears in the Dolomites in northern Italy, after ten bears were reintroduced there in the past decade.
However, as the Guardian says,the bears are not universally welcomed.
…instead of celebrating their return, some locals have complained that the bears are attacking chickens and sheep. Claims made for lost livestock rose to ¤100,000 (£90,000) last year, and farmers were fed up, said Maurizio Fugatti, an MP for the devolutionist and anti-immigrant Northern League.
Hence the banquet, which, said Fugatti, had been planned to “send a clear signal to citizens who have the right to reconquer their territory and freely circulate”.
To protect locals from marauding bears, he added, “we prefer to eat them like this.”
…”The idea was to attract attention to a bear repopulation plan which has got out of hand, resulting in locals being followed by bears through woods normally frequented by families. Even if the banquet doesn’t happen, we have made our point,” he went on.
The bear meat for the banquet was imported from Slovenia, where it is legal to hunt bears. Food safety officers from Italy’s paramilitary carabinieri police broke up the banquet of grilled and stewed bear meat that was being served to about 200 people at a rally in Imer, in the northern Dolomites; the officers cited a lack of import documentation for the 50kg of bear meat.
Enzo Erminio Boso, a former League senator, is accusing the raid on members of Berlusconi’s People of Liberty. A number of members of Berlusconi’s cabinet had criticized the bear banquet: Foreign minister Franco Frattini and tourism minister Michela Vittoria Brambilla had referred to it as “a scandalous initiative”, and environment minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said it was simple “barbarous.” Further,
In his blog, Frattini said the banquet was particularly offensive since Italian bears were “almost extinct and we are trying with great effort to bring them back to the mountains that have hosted them for centuries”.
The Anti-Vivisection League (Lega Anti Vivisezione) described the bear feast as “aberrant behavior” and also “a punishable offense and absolutely illegal,” says La Repubblica.
There are numerous references to bears in Latin literature by the ancient Romans, references that always confuse my students. Bears (like the ones that appear from time to time out of the New Jersey woods to eat out of garbage cans and dumpsters) are quite foreign to their image of modern Italy — something that the effort to reintroduce bears to the Dolomites is (against some tough local sentiments, it seems) trying to change.
Here is a video of the disrupted bear meat banquet.
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Photo by ScriS – www.scris.it