Neither the United States Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service looks after lions, which means it's legal to sell lion meat here. While other wild game, including deer, are off-limits for the supermarket shelves (except when that "wild" game is raised in captivity), Living on Earth's Ike Sriskandarajah explains in this week's show, the king of the jungle is fair game.
And much of the lion meat can be traced to one Chicago-area butcher, "Czimer's Game and Seafood," who apparently had a run-in with federal investigators. Special Agent Tim Santel told Sriskandarajah:
Well, there was a person in the Chicago area who was seeking to purchase tigers so that he could kill them and sell their various body parts. And the only information or identification they gave me at the time was—all they knew was he owned a snow plow business. So that’s why I named it Operation Snow Plow. In our case, which we dealt with a large number of animals, I would say all but two were born in captivity—either at a roadside zoo, maybe they were a part of a circus act, maybe some animal broker had surplus animals. They came from all walks of life.... We saw just as many or more lions killed in Operation Snow Plow that we saw tigers killed.
The trade in lion meat may eventually be banned. Sriskandarajah says Born Free USA and other groups are hoping to have the lion listed under the Endangered Species Act, which would mitigate some of this troubling trade.
Still, the issue deserve more of our thought and attention, given the thorny legal and moral double standards we have to treating different animals. Besides the prohibition on selling wild meats, take the ban on equine slaughterhouses and our taboo against eating horse. We don't eat dogs. And yet, we can still eat lion. Something's wrong with this picture.
Image via Living on Earth