CALABRIA, ITALY-NEWS AND COMMENT: Italian police swooped on a farmhouse in Delianuova, Calabria, in the toe of Italy, to seize 730 illegal marijuana plants. This part of Italy is the home of the powerful Ndrangheta Mafia. While in the farmhouse they stumbled upon bags of frozen dormice in a large freezer. They also saw dozens of live mice in a cage where apparently they were being fattened up.
Dormice are protected under the law in Italy. It is illegal to capture and hunt them. The law has not stopped mobsters serving them up as meals, either roasted or with source, when negotiating a deal at a summit.
Ciro Troiano, an expert with the Italian animal protection Society ‘Lav’, said that they were common at Ndrangheta banquets “and are put on the table when agreements must be reached, or peace pacts between clans must be made”.
Apparently, dormice are thought to be a sign of respect for guests and that agreements reached at a meal should be honoured. You have to pretend to like them. Troiano said that you need a good stomach. He said that the smell is heavy. The story is reported by La Repubblica via The Times newspaper (hard copy).
The BBC tells me that poachers trap dormice illegally at night in the woods of the Aspromonte hills and sell them to the Mafia and restaurants.
Three people at the site of the seizure of the cannabis, and I presume the mice, were arrested. I’m told that edible dormice were a delicacy in ancient Rome. They were stuffed with pork mince, ground pine nuts and garlic and then baked. Perhaps the Mafia got the idea from ancient Rome.
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