The Italian parliament's 17th century building was pelted with eggs, oranges and fire crackers earlier today, part of a protest organised by farmers angry about the latest measures against mad cow disease.

The government recently revealed plans to cull entire herds of cattle when a single case of BSE is discovered, prompting the gathering of hundreds of demonstrators in protest.

Police were called into Rome today wearing riot gear to disperse the crowds, and soon after a small delegation of farmers was allowed in to discuss the matter with politicians.