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Music string makers hit by mad cow
Italian world-beaters struggle with gut ban (ANSA) - Venice, May 19 -
Italy's musical-string makers are fighting a mad-cow ban on the use of their raw material, animal guts.
"This ban makes no sense. You can't eat a violin string," said Mimo Peruffo of the Aquila company, the leading Italian producer of strings.
Aquila uses the intestines of sheep and cows, both outlawed under a European Union ban on offal and other animal parts introduced to halt the spread of mad cow disease.
The company, which is based at Caldogno near Venice, has been forced to turn to a gut supplier in Argentina, the only country the EU rates as risk-free.
"It's simply not enough to ensure future production," Peruffo said.
"We're faced with the risk of shutting down because of a lack of raw material".
Peruffo pointed out that, at the end of the production process, his strings are painted or clad with silver-coated copper wire.
"This eliminates all risk for humans. But the ban stands. The extension of the measure to cover strings is absurd. Our product is simply unfit for human consumption - for the right reasons".
Aquila asked the Italian ministry of health if the EU really meant to include musical strings, to be met with the official answer: "The measure applies to all forms of animal intestines, no matter where they end up".
Peruffo now plans to appeal to a court for an exemption as part of an "historically significant" craft.
Italy has long stood at the head of the world's string makers, the small-business association Confartigianato pointed out.
"The skills were handed down for centuries by craftsmen in Rome, Naples and the Abruzzo region, spreading later to workshops in the Venice and Modena areas," the association noted.
"Traditional Italian mastery cannot be jeopardised by a silly ban on eating violin strings," the association said. Animal intestines have been used to make strings for thousands of years. The first proof that the Ancient Greeks used the material came in 1827 when an English archaeologist found harp strings in Thebes that still had a tone after about 2,000 years.
Legend has it that Greek god Apollo stretched tortoise entrails across the animal's scooped-out shell to invent the first lyre.
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