‘Tastes like rabbit’: Mayor suggests Italians eat giant rodents to deal with pest problem

‘Tastes like rabbit’: Mayor suggests Italians eat giant rodents to deal with pest problem
Italy’s coypu population has been growing at a rapid rate in recent years. The giant rat-like rodents are now so pervasive that one mayor has proposed eating them as a way of reducing their numbers.

Coypus, native to South America, were introduced to Europe to be farmed for fur. However after the collapse of the fur market many were released into the wild.

The animals breed incessantly and their habit of building dens in river banks causes flooding and can damage crops. On their native continent they are preyed upon by alligators and snakes but no such predators exist in Europe.

They have become such a problem in Po Valley, Northern Italy, that hundreds of thousands of euros have been committed to tackling them. However Michele Marchi, mayor of Gerre de’ Caprioli, suggests the best way to cull the population is for people to eat them.

In a post on his Facebook page, the mayor said he tried the meat and it tastes like rabbit, Corriere Della Sera reports.

“The debate about coypu has become bonkers, without coming to any resolution of the problem,” the 31-year-old said. “Here’s my idea – let’s start eating them in restaurants and at village food festivals.

“I’m totally serious. It’s true that there is a sense of revulsion towards the coypu but you just have to go into a pig farm to put it into context – everybody loves to eat prosciutto. We should at least start to discuss the idea.”

The suggestion sparked intense debate with many saying it was disgusting, while others rejected it on animal welfare grounds. However others backed the mayor and insisted that coypu is a fine meat.

Nutritionist Antonio La Russa warned that there is no scientific study on eating the meat and urged caution, Il Fatto Quotidiano reports. "We know almost nothing of what the coypu eats," he said. "It is essential to be guided by common sense.”

The mayor's social media post now appears to have been deleted.

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