Before you read this, you may want to put down any food or drink, lest you lose both your appetite and respect for your fellow human beings completely. Every couple of months or so, it seems that lion meat pops up on the menu in some restaurant that feels it needs to use a gimmick to attract customers. The meat is sourced from animals raised in captivity and its sale is perfectly legal in the United States. Since the big cat is not on the endangered species list, it can be raised for consumption. Some evidence suggests that there are places that breed the animals specifically for the market while others may come from private owners, circuses, and zoos.

hamburger, burgers, lion burger, lion meatPhoto via Shutterstock

In 2010, an eatery in Arizona served lion burgers in celebration of the World Cup in South Africa. Earlier this year, a Florida restaurant sold $35 lion tacos, defending their culinary decision by stating on their website, “Paranoia has set in as some folks have had their reality challenged. They say that we’ve “crossed the line” by serving Lion. But let me ask you this, did you cross the line when you ate Beef, chicken, or Pork this week?

The FDA considers lion as “game meat”, and facilities where the flesh is processed is regulated under the government body much like meat from domestic animals. Conservationists are concerned that the lion market is such a small supply chain that adequate inspection cannot take place. For example, in 2003 a butcher came under fire for selling tiger meat labeled as lion. There also do not seem to be any certification processes in place to manage farms. There is also a worry among animal advocates that a lion meat fad could eventually impact wild populations where the big cat is already facing challenges in the forms of poaching, habitat loss, and human conflict. Eighty percent of their range has been lost due to displacement from human development, and their numbers have dropped from 200,000 to just 30,000.

Illinois, a state considered a centerpoint for the sourcing, slaughtering, and sale of lion meat, is attempting to introduce legislation to ban the practice. Meanwhile, it is up to the consumer whether or not to support the trend towards eating lion. The US is the second largest consumer of exotic animals behind China, and has the potential to make a profound difference. Meanwhile, those people who are looking to find the right wine to pair with their meal should look to something that washes the taste of shame out of their mouths.

Via The Guardian

Images via Wikicommons users FabSubeject and Fae.