ROME — A series of historic Italian feasts involving animals including the famous Palio horse race in Siena are being excluded from a new list of celebrations compiled by Italy's tourism ministry, officials said.
The ministry has compiled a list of 34 feasts under the category "Italian Heritage", leaving off events such as the Palio or a famous joust in Foligno in central Italy that have been accused by campaigners of cruelty to animals.
"A majority of Italians condemn the exploitation of animals and their death for enjoyment," Tourism Minister Michela Brambilla told reporters on Tuesday.
"Certain polemical local officials and politicians should understand that their battle goes against the feelings of millions of people," she said.
But a spokesman for Siena town hall, Massimo Gorelli, told AFP that the Palio is an important draw also for foreign tourists.
"There are 30,000-40,000 people a day including a lot of foreigners," he said.
Italy's animal protection association, LAV, says 49 horses have died in the twice-yearly Palio races since 1970.
Carla Rocchi, head of the ENPA, another national agency for the defence of animals, said the exclusion was justified.
"It's as if a sausage producer complained about being excluded from a vegetarian feast," she said. "If they want a label, they should go for 'Cruel Festivals'."