'Ndrangheta Mafia's 'sacred cattle' under threat as Calabrian authorities order them to be destroyed

The free-roaming white cows have caused damage, ruined crops and pose a danger to traffic, but animal rights activists have launched a petition to save the animals that mobsters see as a sign of their power and influence

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The Independent Online

Animal rights activists have found themselves in a unlikely alliance with ‘ndrangheta mobsters after authorities in Calabria, southern Italy, ordered the free-roaming, “sacred cattle” of the feared crime syndicate to be rounded up and destroyed.

Claudio Sammartino, the prefect of the province of Reggio Calabria, has said that white cows, most of them owned by ‘ndrangheta, should not be allowed to wander around the countryside causing damage and helping themselves to other people’s crops. The animals are also considered a danger to road traffic and railway tracks.

Mr Sammartino has said the animals that are slaughtered should be butchered and used to feed the poor and destitute in charities and soup kitchens. But local animal rights activists have formed a petition on the Firmiamo.it site calling for the slaughter to be avoided and for the animals to be transferred to enclosures where they can live undisturbed.

“Killing is a fast and easy solution in a country that does not know how to govern. Preserving the life of these animals would be the response instead of an intelligent and democratic country,” the petition reads. Local mobsters have responded in a more aggressive way to attempts to curtail the cows’ movements in the plains around the Aspromonte mountains.

Two months ago police arrested two mobsters in the town of Locri, for the suspected murder of a Calabrian doctor, Fortunato La Rosa, who was shot dead in 2005 after he complained several times about the invasion of his property by the white cows.

Fears of such violent response probably explain why an earlier edict by one of Mr Sammartino’s predecessors calling for the wild cattle to be rounded up went mostly unheeded.

Various explanations have been given for the presence of free-roaming, mafia-owned cattle in Calabria. But the newspaper Corriere della Sera said the one relating to the violent feud in 1971 between the Facchineri and Raso clans of ‘ndrangheta is given most credence. The theory says the war between the two powerful families was so all-encompassing that they completely gave up caring and managing their livestock, which from that time on began wandering around the countryside.

Since then, the white cattle, which are now thought to number around 2,000, have been left undisturbed as legends around their links to the mob have grown, with many ‘ndrangheta members seeing the animals as a sign of their power and influence.

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