In the real estate industry, they say that location, location, location, is the only thing that really matters. Apparently, the same could be said about food trends.
Recently, a restaurant owner in Arizona received protests and threats after he announced that he would sell lion burgers to help celebrate the World Cup. In South Africa, where the World Cup is being held, lion burgers are a somewhat regularly available commodity.
But in Arizona, USA?
Nope. Lion burgers offend people. They offend me.
Now to be fair, I know that my habit of eating beef offends some animal rights activists and violates tenets of the Hindu religion. To them, eating a cow is even more offense than eating a lion.
I acknowledge that my offense at the act of eating lion is therefore somewhat hypocritical.
Regardless, I find the concept of eating one of the world’s most powerful and threatened predators to be offensive. Likely, I would take offense at it even in South Africa, though if I were visiting there, I would keep my mouth shut about local custom as a matter of politeness. In this case, I don’t have to keep my mouth shut. I am offended.
To be fair to the restaurant owner, he started this as a publicity stunt designed to increase business and tie his business to arguable the biggest sporting event in the world. I find the decision morally reprehensible, but cannot argue that if his intention was to gain publicity for his business, he did a remarkable job.
Honestly, I can even sort of forgive him on the quasi-ethical stance of the meat was available and at least purported to be legal, so why not use it? What I find most reprehensible is the idea that someone is butchering lions and turning out ground lion burger as food. It terrified me when the restaurant owner said that the lion meat came from an exotic meat dealer who said the lions were raised free-range in Illinois.
Yuck. Another black eye for Illinois.
But it gets even worse. The exotic meat dealer claimed he got the meat from a free-range lion farm in Illinois and that it was federally inspected. That’s the first absolute dishonesty in the story as reported by CNN. The convoluted story gets more and more confused as you go.
According to CNN, the exotic meat dealer who sold it to restaurant owner bought the meat from a butcher shop just south of Chicago. The butcher shop, by the way, has been in trouble before for illegally buying big cat meat before. “Back in 2003, Chicago newspapers covered his conviction and six-month prison sentence for selling meat from federally protected tigers and leopards. Czimer admitted to purchasing the carcasses of 16 tigers, four lions, two mountain lions and one liger — a tiger-lion hybrid — which were skinned, butchered and sold as “lion meat,” for a profit of more than $38,000.”
This time the butcher claimed that he got the meat from a man who raised the lions just for their skins, a taxidermist or tanner if you will. When contacted by various news media, the meat dealer claimed the meat was sort of like a by-product. His shop is licensed and inspected by officials from the U.S. Department of Food & Agriculture, but lion meat is apparently inspected by the Food & Drug Administration, not the USDA.
The question of where exactly the meat came from and if it was inspected for human consumption is definitely a big one. On the other hand, the idea that it might have been inspected implies that we have standards for human consumption of lions. Back to yuck again.
Partially my offense is based on the status of the lion worldwide. Though the lion is only “threatened” and no “endangered,” I think everyone knows that the natural habitat for lions, the African savannah, is disappearing. Like many animals they suffer from human encroachment and poaching. With smaller and smaller areas to live, they are disappearing from nature rapidly. It makes the idea of eating one as it goes the way of the dodo repulsive.
I’m also offended by the idea of eating the big cats – unless it is your historical heritage to do it. In South Africa, it may be cultural (though I suspect there was an over-killing of lions for the tourists at the World Cup). In the United States, it is not a cultural tradition or even a cultural experience that one should try to replicate. These majestic creatures ought to be protected and the idea of butchering them like farm animals is simply disgusting.