07/05/2011 12:17 pm ET Updated Sep 04, 2011

Italian Police Raid Berlusconi's Allies' 'Barbarous' Bear Meat Feast

Silvio Berlusconi's Northern League allies planned to host a 200-person brown bear meat feast in the Italian Dolomite mountains, but instead were greeted by Italian police, who ordered the banquet to be shut down.

Bear hunting is banned in Italy, so the organizers purchased the 100-plus pounds of meat in Slovenia. However, food safety officers claimed that there was no import documentation for the meat.

The banquet was organized to protest the reemergence of brown bears, which have been hurting the livelihood of local farmers. After the raid, the event continued with the word "bear" scrawled out on the menu.

Italian bears are almost extinct, with about 35 bears living around the Dolomites. Environment minister Stefania Prestigiacomo described the feast as "barbarous" and the foreign and tourism ministers declared the meal as a "scandalous initiative." Maurizio Fugatti, secretary of the Northern League party in Trentino, saw otherwise. "We want to defend and protect the citizens who live in these mountain areas from the continuous visits of bears," he said.

Only about half the bear meat had already been cooked (dishes included bear hotpot, bear chop, bear steak and stewed bear) when the dinner was called off; the other half remains in the freezer.