A top Italian food writer has been suspended indefinitely from the country's version of the British television program "Ready Steady Cook" for recommending stewed cat to viewers as a "succulent dish."

RAI, the public broadcasting network, said that it had dropped Beppe Bigazzi, 77, for offering the recipe on "La Prova del Cuoco," which is broadcast at midday on the main channel. Its switchboard was inundated with complaints from viewers and animal rights groups. Bigazzi said that casserole of cat was a famous dish in his home region of Valdarno, Tuscany.

“I’ve eaten it myself and it’s a lot better than many other animals,” he told viewers. “Better than chicken, rabbit or pigeon.” He said that for optimum flavour the meat should be “soaked in spring water for three days” before being stewed.

Elisa Isoardi, the program’s presenter — who has a cat called Othello — tried to steer Bigazzi off the subject. Reports said that during the commercial break she and the show’s producers tried to persuade him to apologize to viewers but he refused.

Carla Rocchi, the head of ENPA, the Italian society for the protection of animals, said that killing cats was illegal. Francesca Martini, the Deputy Health Minister, said it was “absolutely unheard of for a public service broadcaster to tell people how delicious cats are to eat.” She called for the producers to be investigated for criminal offenses involving incitement to mistreat animals.

Bigazzi, a consumer affairs journalist and author of "Cooking with Common Sense," has been one of the stars of La Prova del Cuoco for the past 10 years. He is noted for his exuberant style and previously caused uproar by boiling lobsters live on the show. Tuesday he said that he had only been joking about the recipe, and he had been misunderstood.

Click here to read more on this story from the Times of London.