Polish minister sparks outrage with bid to eat rare animals

By Adam Easton
BBC News, Warsaw

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image captionThere are more than 55,000 beavers in Poland

Polish agriculture minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski has provoked widespread incredulity and criticism in Poland after he proposed removing legal protection for European bison and beaver and adding them to a list of "edible animals".

During an agriculture conference at the Polish parliament late last month, Mr Ardanowski spoke about the need to regulate beaver numbers due to the damage he said they cause to agricultural land. He lamented that even though local authorities grant permission to kill thousands of beavers each year there's very little demand from hunters to hunt them.

In Poland, unlike many European countries, beavers are only partially protected and may be killed between October and March under certain circumstances. The hunter is not allowed to eat the dead animal.

"I will decide to recognise beaver and bison as edible animals," he said, adding that beaver tail was an aphrodisiac. "It may turn out that the beaver problem will end soon," he added.

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Both the European bison and beaver were commonly hunted for food in past centuries.

The last bison in the Bialowieza forest was shot in the early 1920s. They were reintroduced at the end of that decade from bisons kept in zoos.

Since both species have been protected under Polish law their numbers have increased. According to the most recent estimates, there were 1,873 bison and more than 55,000 beavers in Poland.

The minister's comments have caused some puzzlement. According to experts, no such list of edible animals in Poland exists. It is also up to the environment minister not the agriculture minister to decide which species are legally protected in Poland.

On Friday, Mr Ardanowski clarified that he was in talks with the environment minister about placing beaver, not bison, on a list of animals, such as deer or hare, that can be hunted and eaten.

But even that may prove tricky. If the environment minister decides to remove legal protection for beavers, Poland would find itself in conflict, once again, with EU law, because the European beaver is protected under the EU's Habitats Directive.

media captionBialowieza forest: Poland broke EU law by logging

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