By John R. Platt
Why do U.S. restaurants keep trying to sell lion meat? This month a Florida restaurant called Taco Fusion put $35 lion tacos on its menu, and a California restaurant called Mokutanya announced $70 lion skewers, its second such promotion in the past year. Public outrage rose up almost immediately, forcing both restaurants to remove the controversial fare from their menus.
Taco Fusion and Mokutanya were not isolated cases. “There have been about 10 incidents in the past two years where restaurants have said they were adding lion meat to their menus for a very short time,” says Jeffrey Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “All of them have put it forward in kind of a gimmicky, promotional type way. Each time there have been public outcries. I would call it an extremely dangerous way to drum up business.”
Although lions have experienced at least a 50 percent population decline over the past three decades, African lions (Panthera leo) are the only big cat species not currently protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). That may change in the near future: Earlier this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced an initial status review to see if listing lions under the ESA is warranted. (The species is protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which requires signatory nations to get a license before exporting lions or their bodily parts. No import license is required on the other end of the transaction.) An unknown number of African lions, probably numbering in the thousands, currently live in the U.S. in backyard pens, roadside zoos and other less-than-desirable circumstances. More....