Friday, April 12, 2013

Lion Meat from Illinois

An article headlined, "Why is Illinois in an uproar over lion meat" really caught my attention. Three questions immediately crossed my mind.

1) Why would anyone want to eat lion meat
2) I thought lion's were or were close to being an endangered species, so how could this be allowed
3) Illinois?

The headline seemed really strange to me, so I continued and found out some things I had no idea about. For starters, there are restaurants which have served exotic meat. Many of those have served lion on their menu at one point or another. One of the most notable was a restaurant in Arizona that had served Lion meat, as a promotion, during the last World Cup, which was hosted in South Africa. Most would associate South Africa with the "King of the Jungle."

And why is an Illinois Representative presenting a bill to the Illinois General Assembly that would make it illegal to possess, breed, buy or sell lions for the sale of meat? The two things just seem so far apart to me that it seems nonsensical to even discuss it. However, Illinois and lion meat are much more closely related than any of us probably even know.

It turns out that Illinois actually has butchers that handle lion meat and even a plant in Seward, IL that has lion listed as exotic meats that it has processed. The article from Born Free USA is an intriguing read. What is of real intrigue is that they say they have no way of knowing where the lion meat came from. Did it come from the African wild?  From animals raised in captivity? Were they the byproduct of canned hunting operations, or were they from wild animals raised and held in captivity in the United States? There was no concrete way for them to identify the origin of the trade. Apparently, somewhere out there, humans actually raise lions and butcher them, presumably in the latter stages of their life. This story is completely bizarre! Who eats and trades lion meat?

The investigation conducted by Born Free USA led to an inspection of Eickman's lion meat Processing in Seward, IL by the USDA, but not until AFTER Born Free USA sounded the alarm. It was alarming how little the USDA actually knew about what was going on at the facility or how little they were able to find out. They did conclude that between 2006 and 2010, the facility slaughtered as many as 20 lions!

In another Illinois operation, the FOIA revealed that Czimer's Game and Seafood was convicted in 2003 of selling meat from federally protected tigers and leopards. The owner had also admitted to purchasing the carcasses of 16 tigers, 4 lions and 2 mountain lions! Quite alarming (or maybe not) that all of this activity is happening in our own state. Normally I would say any time our elected officials get involved in our food and drink regulation that they might be over stepping their boundary, but in this case it sounds like much more needs to be done to protect these magnificent beasts. Only in Illinois!

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