WARSAW, June 7 (Reuters) - Beavers could be a good source of food, Poland's agriculture minister said on Friday, after he outraged animal rights activists by joking the aphrodisiac qualities of the rodents' tails could encourage Poles to eat them.
Jan Ardanowski made his tongue-in-cheek comment on the tails in May when outlining plans to allow to the eating of beavers and European bison to encourage hunting of the animals to regulate numbers. His comments were only widely reported this week and Ardanowski stood by his proposals:
"Those animals could be used for culinary purposes and it doesn't seem to me that would be something completely absurd," Ardanowski told reporters on broadcaster TVN24.
Poland's ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) are no strangers to conflicts with environmentalists, with decisions to cull wild boar and carry out large-scale logging in the ancient Bialowieza forest provoking widespread opposition.
"It's another step on his (Ardanowski's) crusade against nature, said Krzysztof Cibor from Greenpeace. "From our point of view it is totally irresponsible."
European bison are a protected species in Poland and viewed by some as symbolic of the country. Beavers are partially protected, meaning some reduction of the population is allowed, but hunting for food is almost unheard of.
Polish state-run news agency PAP quoted Ardanowski as saying on Friday there were around 100,000 beavers in Poland which cause problems for farmers and damage rivers.
WWF Poland spokeswoman Katarzyna Karpa-Swiderek said that while Ardanowski may have been joking, the reference to beavers' tails was dangerous.
"We know many examples around the world where people believe in some kind of magical power or healing power of part of an animal's body and this species of animal is on the verge of extinction."
The Ministry for Agriculture was not immediately able to comment.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish; Editing by Toby Chopra)
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