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Berlusconi allies busted for bear meat party

Europe's brown bears
A brown bear takes a bath in his enclosure at the zoo in Berlin on September 8, 2009. Europe's brown bear population was decimated in the 20th Century, and attempts to reintroduce the animal have met mixed results. Getty Images

Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, normally gets in trouble for what he does at dinner (a.k.a. "bunga bunga") parties. Over the weekend, however, a group of his political allies got in trouble for what they were going to eat - the meat from brown bears.

Armed officers stormed into a venue at Imer in the Italian Dolomites after being tipped off that the Northern League, a political coalition aligned with Berlusconi, had ordered and was readying to eat more than 100 pounds of bear meat, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The hunting of bears is illegal in Italy, so the Northern League said it had gotten the meat from nearby Slovenia, The Guardian reports. About 200 people had lined up to chomp down on grilled and stewed bear.

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Italy's brown bear population had verged on extinction not long ago, but the population in the Dolomites was up to as many as 35 bears, The Guardian reports.

While animal rights activists and some government ministers described the bear feast as "scandalous" and "barbarous," the Northern League said people in the Dolomites are beginning to fear the incursion of bears, The Guardian reports.

The dinner, the hosts say, was a protest at the reemergence of the bear population, which has begun to hurt the livelihood of some local farmers, The Guardian reports.

Only about half the bear meat brought in for the banquet had already been cooked, and organizers say the other half is still in the freezer, waiting to see whether or not what they're doing is actually illegal, so they can finally chow down on bear.

The Northern League is a notoriously devolutionist and anti-immigrant party. It makes claims of being a workers' party, and it is forever seeking greater autonomy for the largely wealthier and more homogeneous Northern regions of the country.

Maurizio Fugatti, an MP for the Northern League, told The Guardian they just want to protect locals from marauding bears, adding, "We prefer to eat them like this."

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