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An Italian Chef Is in Legal Trouble for Cooking a Pigeon on TV

A Michelin-starred Italian chef, Carlo Cracco, is probably a bit surprised by the backlash now coming his way thanks to a dish he recently cooked on MasterChef Italia.

Alex Swerdloff

Photo via Flickr user jans canon

A Michelin-starred Italian chef, Carlo Cracco, is probably a bit surprised by the backlash now coming his way thanks to a dish he recently cooked on MasterChef Italia. Cracco is a host of the show—along with Bruno Barbieri and Joe Bastianich—and he innocently prepared a dish of pigeon and turnip on an episode that aired in January.

Lorenzo Croce, president of the Italian Institute for the Protection of Animals and the Environment (also known as AIDAA), got wind of the dish served on the show and wasn't too pleased. In a posting on the group's website, under a picture of a plump, white pigeon, are emblazed these fighting words: "From the point of view of European law and national law, pigeons are wild species... Cracco is not God and therefore is not above the law."

What the message refers to is the so-called Birds' Directive, a law that protects wild birds and their habitats throughout the European Union. Croce has since reported the chef to police in Milan for inciting the people of Italy to break the law by cooking pigeons.

According to The Local, Croce wrote in his police report that "nobody doubts that Cracco is a great chef." Nevertheless, Croce says, "going on television and cooking a dish of pigeon, an animal protected by national and European laws, is a criminal act which we couldn't ignore."

Croce is less worried about the actual bird that ended up in the stew than about the recipe catching on throughout Italy: "[Broadcasting] the footage is criminally instigating citizens to commit criminal acts by inviting them to break laws that protect wild animals," he wrote.

If you think about it, though, there must be some way to cook a pigeon in Europe. Aren't plenty of pigeons cooked there? Wouldn't the tables of France be bereft without the bountiful bird?

In fact, cooking farmed pigeon is perfectly legit in the EU. You may have even had it before by a different name: Young domestic pigeons are referred to not as pigeons, but as squab. The Local says that even AIDAA's own followers on Facebook were quick to point out the distinction. And even the president of the regional government of Veneto, Roberto Ciambetti, pointed out the distinction in the law: "The EU law only covers wild animals," he is quoted as saying in Il Fatto Quotidiano. "I presume Cracco cooked a farmed pigeon—so I'm not sure why you would report him."

The pigeon fiasco may very well pass in due time, but being a world-renowned and innovative chef can come with quite a bit of publicity, negative or otherwise. Last year, Cracco was forced to apologize for this horrific deed: He suggested that garlic could be added to pasta amatriciana. Talk about a real scandal! A man who can withstand that firestorm can certainly deal with a little pigeon problem.