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What could be more redolent of Easter than a sizzling piece of suckling lamb studded with slivers of garlic, crowned with sprigs of rosemary and roasted to a deep, golden hue? Yet as this year's celebration of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ approaches, all the signs are that lamb is losing the broad appeal that had made it a symbolic staple of celebratory meals for centuries. According to the national statistics institute (ISTAT), the number of lambs sent to slaughter in Italy fell from 4.6 million in 2010 to just over two million last year. Animal rights activists say the trend, which has accelerated in the last two years, reflects a groundswell of revulsion at the practice of dragging tiny lambs -- and on a much smaller scale goat kids -- away from their mothers and into the slaughterhouse when they are as young as four-weeks old.