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What's Wrong with Eating Lion Meat?

Lion-meat tacos, with a side of controversy

This blog was previously posted but I receieved an important comment that I include below from Megan Knauss from Born Free USA. The original blog follows the comment.

Comment by Megan Knauss [email protected]

Ethics Sage: First, thank you for the mention!  Second, in response to your question, here are three reasons why eating lion meat is wrong:

1) The lion meat industry is virtually unregulated.  Consumers therefore have no assurance that their lion tacos and burgers will not pose a risk to their health. 

2) The lion population is quickly disappearing.  To place lion meat on the menu in US restaurants is to further threaten this iconic, vulnerable species’ future survival.

3) The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act does not apply to lions.  When lions are slaughtered for food, there are no laws in place to ensure that the animals are unconscious or insensible to pain before they are killed.

Thank you for bringing attention to this important issue.  As you point out, lions do indeed have rights- rights that are being trampled on by businesses that have twisted the American “freedom of choice” to justify serving this beautiful species on a platter. 

Original Blog by Ethics Sage

My nephew, I’ll call him Howard, is sometimes skeptical about the veracity of topics I choose for my blogs labeling some “urban legends,” so I dedicate this blog to him. I know he will be skeptical so I’ve included a  Lion_meat_tacophoto of the taco with lion meat sold by a Tampa, Florida restaurant until last week.

Well, all you taco lovers, for $35 dollars you can try lion as in the king of the jungle.

"I thought the lion was good," said patron Lee Weiner. "It didn't taste too gamey to me, similar to steak."

Frankie Consoli commented that the lion meat is a bit tougher than steak. Consoli is a connoisseur of what many of us would think as ethically-challenged food choices.  He’s eaten rattlesnake and antelope before and if he didn’t want lion at Taco Fusion, Consoli could pick from other exotic meats on the menu: bison, shark, ostrich, gator, gazelle, rabbit, duck, camel and kangaroo.

Since Taco Fusion opened in February 2013, the restaurant has built a reputation for their unconventional taco filings. They have previously offered game like beaver and otter, but the controversy didn't start until lion meat made its way onto their menu.

"I really don't like that at all," said McKenzie Bremer who opposed the restaurant's decision and said that a threatened species should not be served at a taco place.

Brad Barnett, the owner of Taco Fusion, defended his actions by saying: "If you don't like it, don't eat it." However, he bowed to the pressure and removed the lion meat as one of a few exotic fillings for their tacos.

Meanwhile, Taco Fusion has even more unusual items coming: iguana, bear and zebra, which, on one level follows a trend in gourmet circles to use ever-more-exotic ingredients. It's not uncommon for the Food Network to broadcast cooking competitions where chefs use sea urchin, squab, quail eggs and bone narrow.

So why not eat lion meat? Why prohibit it when other "tasteless" food choices exist such as Biscuit Kite Spider, Tomato Frog, and Green Slug Caterpillar?

Wild animal advocacy group Born Free USA embarked on an undercover investigation into the lion meat trade in 2011, and as part of their campaign to curb the trade, have petitioned to have African lion listed as "endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the petition presented substantial evidence indicating that listing this subspecies may be warranted, but has yet to issue a finding.

Here are my reasons for freeing the Lion as a food choice. Lions are considered “Vulnerable” in the wild, which is a step short of “Endangered,” according to wildlife conservation groups, and so importing or selling lion meat isn’t illegal. However the African lion - one of Africa's most iconic animals - has experienced an alarming population decrease since the 1960's. According to National Geographic, only 32,000 Lions remain out of 100,000 roaming Africa in the 1960s, and the actual number may be much lower.

Animal rights activists oppose lion meat for the same reasons they oppose any other meat: It infringes on the rights of the animals. This is the link to ethics. We accept that human beings have rights – freedom of speech, freedom to worship as we wish, freedom to assemble, and so on. Don’t animals have rights? Wouldn’t one of those rights be to roam the wild without fear of being killed for food?  ...Just food for thought… 

It has taken me a long time to accept that eating Bambi is routine in many parts of the world. However, I draw the line at Simba.

Blog re-posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on June 14, 2013