Lion Meat Is Perfectly Legal in America—Yes, Really

A lawmaker in Illinois has moved to ban the sale of lion, but restuarants in the state see the king of the jungle as a possible cash cow.

A lions yawns at Nairobi's National Park on March 11, 2013. (Photo: Marko Djurica/Reuters)

Mar 12, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

Horsemeat in your burgers is bad, but lion meat in your tacos is beyond the pale.

Illinois state representative Luis Arroyo is pushing legislation that would ban the sale of lion meat in the Land of Lincoln, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Those are zoo animals,” said Arroyo “There’s other meats we can eat besides the lions.” If Arroyo’s bill becomes law, convicted transgressors would serve up to a year in prison and pay a $2,500 fine.

Arroyo’s push, while righteous (the thought of an Aslan Double Bacon and Avocado Burger makes me wince), doesn’t exactly seem like the most necessary of laws given that lion meat is rarely, if ever, seen on restaurant menus.

While Arroyo did tell the Sun-Times that he knew of two places where he thought the meat was sold, he also declined to name the lion-meat purveyors by name.

Arroyo’s fellow lawmakers said the state has better things to do.

“Most people would never even conceive of eating lion meat,” said Kristina Rasmussen, vice president of the Illinois Policy Institue. “If this is a problem—and I’m not convinced that it is—surely it can be solved by civil action and community consensus and open debate. Do we have to rush in with a law, especially when we have so many other problems right in front of our face?”

Rasmussen’s “most people” blanket statement is, well, only mostly right, as this isn’t the first time that lion consumption has surfaced in America.

In January 2011, Bryan Mazor announced plans to serve up African lion meat tacos at his Boca Tacos y Tequila restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona.

Mazor, whose publicity stunt was met with stiff resistance from PETA, was inspired by another Phoenix-area restaurant-owner, Cameron Selogi, who served lion meat in 2010 “to honor” the South Africa World Cup.

Selogi’s supplier, Rick Worrilow, said he purchased the meat from a Chicago-area company called Czimer’s Game & Seafood in Homer Glen, Illinois. In 2003, Czimer owner Richard Czimer was sentenced to six months in prison for illegally buying and selling tiger and leopard meat.

One parting thought: Arroyo’s effort might be for naught if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ends up banning the sale of lion under the Endangered Species Act.

Yeah, that’s right—it is currently legal to eat lion meat in America.

One would think our country would be more Simba-thetic than that.

Alas, we’re not: Between 1998 and 2008, over 7,000 wild lion parts were traded around the world. The U.S. is by far the largest importer of said parts, accounting for 64 percent of the lions killed for trophies.