Eating The Lion King: Who’s On Your Plate?Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on May 24, 2013
Last week, a Northern California restaurant was in hot water for serving lion meat. The East Bay restaurant, Mokutanya, also features peacock, iguana, deer, alligator, and kangaroo on its menu. But they bit off more than they could chew when they branched out to lion meat. Owner Jason Li Mokutanya purchased the carcass of an African lion from an Illinois processor and posted news of the dish on Facebook, unleashing a public uproar. The restaurant has now pulled the item off their menu.
Lion Meat on the Rise
Sales of lion "meat" (and the flesh of other exotic animals) are on the rise at restaurants across the U.S., as well as butcher shops and farmers markets. From a New York café to a Kansas restaurant, a pub in Philly and a bistro in Mesa, Arizona, lion has become a dish du jour, to the horror of animal lovers.
Where does this flesh come from? Eickman’s Processing in Seward, IL is one of 16 slaughterhouses that process exotic animal carcasses, but is the only one that processes lion flesh. The company has admitted to selling the carcasses of tigers, lions, and mountain lions as "lion meat" at a profit of almost $40,000.
What’s wrong with slaughtering captive lions and selling lion meat? To start, the U.S. trade in lion meat reflects the problems in our nation’s treatment of exotic animals. With little real regulatory oversight from the FDA or USDA, the meat is largely uninspected. As with U.S. industrial agriculture in cows, pigs, and poultry, the contamination of antibiotics and other drugs in the animal flesh is not clearly identified, or monitored.
What’s Wrong with Eating Lions?
How would we react if someone tried to eat Tony, the Bengal tiger confined for 13 years at a Louisiana truck stop that ALDF is working so hard to free? We call cows and pigs "beef" and "pork" so we don’t have to think about the fact that they’re sentient beings. Eating a predator like a lion destroys that illusion.
Are we equally outraged by the slaughter of other animals? There has been quite a stir about the presence of horsemeat sold on the black market, as in our landmark Florida backyard-slaughter case, or showing up in cow burgers. But why aren’t more people upset about the cows?
- 10 billion farmed land animals are killed every year in the U.S.; nearly 65 billion worldwide.
- Americans eat 270.7 pounds of meat per person a year, more than almost any other country.
- We have highest risk of heart disease, which is directly linked to consumption of animal protein.
- Animal agriculture–killing animals for meat on industrial farms–is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses and climate change.
Is the Lion Meat Trade Breaking the Law?
It is unlikely that all lion brokers possess the proper USDA permits required by law to possess big cats in Illinois. Furthermore, if lions are transported out of state by brokers without proper licenses, they may be violating the federal Captive Wildlife Safety Act.
Lions are not protected by the federal Humane Slaughter Act, which requires animals to be rendered insensible to pain prior to slaughter. Many states have no laws governing the care and treatment of captive exotic animals. This failure not only allows the inhumane slaughter of sentient animals, but shameful conditions in roadside zoos, traveling shows, and private ownership.
Although considered "threatened," lions are not protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) either. This is one reason it’s still legal to sell lions, hold them captive, and serve them in restaurants. But animal advocates are working hard to fight this trade on the state and federal level.
Lions need better laws. The public outcry, and the removal of lion meat from Mokutanya’s menu, shows us that citizen voices are heard! Please support bill HB 2991, the Lion Meat Act, which would ban the slaughter and sale of lion meat for human consumption. Spread the word!