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Picture:
REUTERS

There are not many people who could make cuddling a lamb look a little bit creepy.

But it seems 80-year-old Silvio Berlusconi might be just the man.

The scandal-stricken former Italian prime minister has “rescued” five lambs from the Easter slaughter, in a new animal rights campaign that has baffled journalists and angered Italy’s meat industry.

Italians traditionally eat lamb or goat on Easter Sunday, but consumption has declined in recent years due to an economic slump and the growing popularity of vegetarianism.

A video by the Italian League in Defence of Animals and the Environment shows Berlusconi hugging, kissing and feeding the lambs, alongside the Italian MP Michela Vittoria Brambilla and his 31-year-old girlfriend Francesca Pascale.

The ex-premier was filmed in front of a sign saying “Defend life, choose a vegetarian Easter”, while a scrolling message urged viewers to “Be like him. He saved five lambs from the Easter slaughter”.

But Berlusconi’s sudden zeal for animal rights activism has provoked the ire of Italian butchers and farmers.

The butchers' lobby Assocarni has attacked the media tycoon and called on advertisers to boycott his television channels and publications.

It said in a statement: “It's incredible that even though he is a business person he is contributing to damaging the meat industry to try to get the votes of animal lovers.”

Berlusconi is currently the controlling shareholder of the media company Mediaset, as well as the owner of Italian football club A.C. Milan.

The billionaire leader of the centre-right Forza Italia party was Italy’s longest serving post-war prime minister, holding the office for nine years between 1994 and 2011.

His political career has been dogged by allegations of corruption, bribery and sex with minors. He was eventually expelled from the Italian senate in 2013 after a tax fraud conviction, after being involved in around 100 court cases.

But, as David Cameron knows, what better way to improve your public image than to be pictured feeding some lambs?

Picture: Picture: Getty Images

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