ROME (Reuters) - Italian farmers paraded small, pink pigs in protest outside parliament on Thursday, declaring they were being driven to ruin by hams and salami sold as 'Made in Italy' but produced largely elsewhere.
The agriculture sector has long been in decline in the euro zone's third largest economy and farmers say it is undermined by counterfeit products and low quality foreign food that is merely processed in Italy.
The farmers urged passers-by to "adopt" one of the pigs, which lay contentedly in straw-filled sties surrounded by crowds of protesting farmers dressed in the vibrant yellow of Italy's biggest agriculture group Coldiretti.
"We have nothing left, everything's destroyed. Houses abandoned, land abandoned, everything's been left to ruin," said Vittorio Mauri, a farmer from the countryside outside Rome who said he could no longer afford to work his land.
The group says the meat production industry provides 105,000 jobs in an economy where unemployment is at a record high, and has launched a "Battle for Christmas" campaign to encourage Italians to buy national products.
"Too many products with an unclear origin enter our country on a daily basis and then magically become 'Made in Italy' simply because we lack a clear law on the labeling," Coldiretti President Roberto Moncalvo told Reuters.
On Wednesday, thousands of farmers protested at Italy's border with Austria and stopped trucks to examine where their produce came from. Coldiretti said they found German mozzarella cheese destined for Sicily and ham bound for Modena, in the centre of the region famous for Italy's cured meats.
Reporting by Naomi O'Leary and Cristiano Corvino; editing by Ralph Boulton