For many years as Italy’s prime minister, media tycoon and degenerate womanizer Silvio Berlusconi was as polarizing as it gets.

One of the world’s richest men, Berlusconi’s political career and personal life followed a not-unfamiliar arc: Multiple marriages, usually followed by staggering alimony payments (a reported $4 million a month to his second ex-wife) and remarriage to women 40 or 50 years his junior.

Politically, he was investigated for allegedly bribing opposition senators, named as a defendant in multiple lawsuits, charged with having sex with an underage prostitute and eventually convicted of tax fraud.

A real role model for justice and morality.

Although the 80-year-old is out of office now, he’s not done creating controversy. This time, according to Reuters, he’s infuriating the Italian meat industry by supporting a vegetarian campaign that featured the “adoption” of several lambs that would have been butchered in time for Easter.

“A video by the Italian League in Defense of Animals and the Environment, showing Berlusconi cuddling, kissing and feeding the lambs with a baby’s bottle, was circulated widely on social media over the weekend,” the Reuters story noted.

Berlusconi was filmed at his estate in front of a sign saying, “Defend life, choose a vegetarian Easter.” A scrolling message urged viewers to “Be like him. He saved five lambs from the Easter slaughter.”

As Phony As It Gets

Although Italians traditionally eat lamb or goat meat on Easter Sunday, consumption has declined in recent years, due to a recessionary economy, according to most observers, or as the result of vegetarian campaigning, according to animal activists.

You make the call.

Italy’s Assocarni, the butchers’ trade association, attacked the billionaire and called on advertisers to boycott Berlusconi’s television channels and media publications.

“It’s incredible that even though he is a business person, he is contributing to damaging the meat industry to try to get the votes of animal lovers,” the group said in a statement.

Personally, I wouldn’t lend credence to the notion that it’s veggie activists who are responsible for any decline in meat consumption by demanding that they be punished. That’s because the whole save-the-farm-animals movement is like a political campaign: lots of high-flying rhetoric about transformative change, when in fact the messaging is all about raking in contributions.

If the issue is saving farm animals from … well, from being farm animals, then the goal should be to put an end to the profession of animal husbandry. That’s a stance that immediately runs into a wall of contradictions, foremost among them: Do we give up on the domestication of animals, period? That’s the brain-dead PETA position.

You can rail all you want about the (alleged) horrors of hunting, or rodeos, or circus acts. But Just Say No to all animals means no companion animals, no riding horses, no petting zoos, no cats, no dogs — not even ones that serve the blind and disabled or provide comfort to sick children or who assist the police in catching criminals.

That’s an absurd proposition even most PETA people reject.

Kind of like the Pope telling Catholics: You can’t use contraception, and several hundred million of them going, “Yeah, right.”

But if the ultimate outcome of a save-the-lambs movement is to turn farms into animal sanctuaries, the question becomes, who’s going to pay for that? Livestock need space, pastures, shelter, feed, veterinary care. That costs money, and also requires significant amounts of labor.

Is the thought process of do-gooders like the League in Defense of Animals such that somehow, some way, land will be devoted to “rescuing” lambs — and letting them grow up to be sheep that can easily live 12 to 15 years, by the way — that people will be employed as their caretakers, crops will be grown to provide them feed, and burial sites set aside to dispose of their bodies after a “natural” death?

That’s the plan?

The whole save-the-farm-animals initiative is a giant scam to garner publicity and raise money for animal activists. If you truly believe that human diets and lifestyles must be totally revolutionized, then your energies need to be devoted to figuring out a way to replace trillions of calories of protein currently derived from animal foods, with edible crops — but without replacing any of the world’s existing forests, grasslands or wetlands with farms.

The idea that you drive global, systemic change by spending half an hour shooting a video of cuddly lambs to spearhead a fund-raising effort is as phony as it gets. Maybe the true believers who reach into their wallets when they watch those clips are motivated by good intentions, but pardoning a couple lambs at Eastertime no more turns the world vegetarian than shelling out $19 a month to “save” a child in Africa ends the scourge of poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Fact is, if ending hunger is truly a priority, the last thing on Earth we should be doing is trying to rid the planet of livestock.

That won’t make for a Happy Easter.

Or any other time of the year.

Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.