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ROME (Reuters) - Saturday is "black cat day", in Italy, an initiative by an animal rights group to try to stop the killing of thousands of the cats by superstitious citizens convinced they bring bad luck.
Black cats have a bad name in many countries, but nowhere more so than Italy, where a papal edict in the middle ages declared they were instruments of the devil. Black cats were thrown into the fires to join witches burned at the stake.
The Italian Association for the Defense of Animals and the Environment (AIDAA) estimates 60,000 were killed last year, to ward off bad luck but also for use in satanic rites and in cosmetics laboratories where black fur gives the best results.
"We want to halt this massacre, educate people and restore dignity to black cats," said AIDAA President Lorenzo Croce.
The group has set up 200 information points in towns and cities around Italy, where passers-by will be given literature on black cats, asked to sign a petition and urged to adopt one of the 5,000 in cat refuges.
AIDAA has also sent a letter to Pope Benedict, a well known cat lover. "It would be great if he would speak out in recognition of our initiative and say the prejudice against black cats is a lot of nonsense," Croce said.
Reporting by Gavin Jones