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Bear Stew As Course Meal In Northern Italy

A restaurant in Pordenone, Northern Italy, has been hit by a media storm after it was revealed that bear stew is part of the menu. It costs €18 and it is served alongside polenta, a type of maize porridge that is usually eaten during the winter.


The infamous dish can only be served if pre-booked, as the meat does not come from the Italian territory. And the controversy began right there — hunting bears is currently illegal in Italy because they are considered a protected species. It is estimated that the region is home to only 50–60 individuals of Marsican brown bears, the most endangered species.


But in a live interview on the Italian Radio24 station, the restaurant owner defended her menu choice by stating that "anything I do (regarding the sale of bear stew) is legitimate." So how did the restaurant manage to sell bear meat without breaking the law?


In the same interview, the owner confirmed that the meat is sourced from Slovenia, a country where hunting bears is still somewhat legal. In fact, since 2004, the country has allowed bears to continue being hunted despite being considered a protected species at the same time. As of now, the Slovenian government tries to curb bear hunting by giving limited permissions to do it, but this hasn't stopped local organisations from coordinating hunting trips for tourists.


As a result, the loophole has been exposed: as long as the meat is shipped from another country, it is legal to sell it on Italian soil. And it doesn't have to come from Slovenia exclusively — Croatia, Bulgaria, and Russia are among the other countries that authorize the sale of bear meat for human consumption. Pordenone's restaurant justified their dish by stating that they have all the obligatory checks that certify the animal has been killed in Slovenia, not Italy. She states she does not have any issue with selling this type of dish, for which people from the whole of Northern Italy travel to try, because "anyone is free to eat whatever they like" and that "eating a cow or bear meat makes no difference at all."


Despite not being against the law, animal rights activists have not refrained from labelling this choice as immoral. "Even if it's regulated, it's abnormal. [..] Importing bear meat from Slovenia is a moral offence against nature that I condemn. Italians love animals, and I can't believe they are willing to eat bears," commented Michela Vittoria Brambilla, the president of the Italian Lega for Animal and Environmental Defense.


Even Animalisti Italiani, another organisation that fights for animal rights, jumped on the live interview at Radio24 to express their disbelief. "The difference between cows and bears is that bears are an endangered species." "I think eating an endangered species is shameful," a spokesperson said.


This is not the first time a restaurant has been publicly accused of serving extravagant dishes; last August another one in Northern Italy was said to serve bear stew to their clients. At that time, the news even reached one of the members of the Democratic Party, who strongly condemned the act, especially considering the European funds Italy has spent on bear conservation in the Alps over the years.


Will this be the last time a restaurant serves controversial dishes? For now, the owner has declared that she will not eliminate the meal from the menu.




Photo credit: Rasmus Svinding: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-bear-35435/

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