Lions meat, anyone? Democrat tries to ban sale of the meat in Illinois

Hungry for a lion meat sandwich? If you’re heading to Illinois, you might soon be out of luck.

While apparently a lion burger is more common than you’d think, now a Chicago democrat is trying to have it banned.

“The Lion Meat Act” (nope, we’re not kidding), sponsored by Illinois representative Luis Arroyo would ban the sale of lion meat and the slaughter of the king of the jungle in the state of Illinois.

Anyone caught with the meat could be slapped with a $25,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

“'It’s just inhumane. Those are zoo animals. Then you talk about eating elephants, eating all kinds of zoo animals,” Arroyo tells the Chicago Sun-Times. “There’s other meats we can eat besides the lions.”

Lions are currently not considered a critically-endangered species in the U.S., and the sale of their meat is legal. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last November that they were re-examining their position.

Lion meat is virtually impossible to come by on a restaurant menu, but Arroyo says he knows of two places in the Chicago-area where the meat is being sold.

While he refuses to divulge the locations, a small family-owned butcher shop in Homer Glen, Ill., about 50 kilometres southwest of Chicago, advertises lion meat on its website.

Czimer’s Game and Seafood advertises cuts of lion meat, including steaks at $19.95 a pound and ribs at $9.98 a pound. And while currently, lion meat is not available, black bear meat is (tenderloins are priced at $22.50 a pound), and so is kangaroo (steaks for $17.95 a pound).

This isn’t the first time Czimer’s has been in the spotlight.

In 2010, an Arizona restaurant came under fire after purchasing 10 pounds of lion meat, aiming to use it to celebrate that year’s World Cup in South Africa. The restaurant’s owner said he purchased the meat from a distributor in Phoenix, which in turn had bought the meat from Czimer’s.

While Czimer’s is officially registered with the FDA and has been inspected by state regulators, the owner received a six-month sentence in 2003 for selling a “lion meat” burger that was actually made up of ground meat from tiger, mountain lion and liger meat.

Mountain lion, tigers and ligers - a lion tiger hybrid - are federally protected from slaughter for meat.

However, some are saying the Democrat’s bill is just to garner press coverage and that the Lion Meat Act is just a waste of time.

“Legislators have bigger issues to tame than the commercialization of lion meat. Most people would never even conceive of eating lion meat,” says Kristina Rasmussen, vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute.

“…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?”