Wednesday, June 23, 2010

US Resturant Owner Serving Lion Meat Burgers As A Tribute to the World Cup

"Arizona restaurant serving lion meat burgers"
Associated Press: 6/23/2010
PHOENIX — An Arizona restaurant owner dreamed up a novelty meal to give customers a South African experience during the World Cup 2012 being held in South Africa. Serving burgers made with African lion meat has generated protests from animal rights activists.

Cameron Selogie says his Il Vinaio restaurant in Mesa has received a bomb threat and more than 150 e-mails from protesters. He says African lions are on the protected list, but not endangered.
The restaurant ordered 10 pounds of African lion meat from a USDA-regulated, free-range farm in Illinois, which Selogie says he researched to make sure they were humane. It's mixed with ground beef, and the restaurant says it's serving about 15 burgers a day
USDA spokesman Jim Brownlee says lion meat is an uncommon dish, but he knew of no prohibitions against it (Information from: The Arizona Republic,


I remember reading about Uganda and the famous stories of Idi Amin eating Lion heart for virility and strength. Those particular aspects of Amin’s unique and outlandish habits travelled amongst Ugandans and the British because it was not the norm in Uganda to eat any Lion part. Similarly, in African Folklore and traditional tales about Africa, one always heard the brave young hunter or warriors had killed a Lion, and that they made clothes or jewelry from the body parts, but it was never followed by ‘and the village had a feast and ate for days’. I have never heard of Africans eating Lions as a common practice. If this happens, it is certainly not as widely known as this unfounded belief or claim about the way we eat. So without any witnesses to this meat eating habit or any traceable names of ethnic groups that eats Lion meat, the basis of such a statements derive from where exactly? The restaurant owners statements seems to be an illogical series of assumptions, ‘oh, the must eat Lions in Africa, since Africans eat anything and Lions are in Africa”. I have yet to hear of a specific ethnic group in Africa that does this as a practice.

I searched my memory files, I Googled it, I asked my friends from Uganda and Kenya and no, not even the hunter-gather ethnic group, the Masai's who are most famous for their feats in hunting kill Lion as a source of meat. According to the Masai Association, Masai's kill the lions for the mane, tail and claws but never for the meat. The Mane and tail are beaded and returned to the hunter to wear on special occasions. The claw is used in a similar manner. Killing of the Lion is usually done as a rite of passage (not so much in present day culture since Lions are now in a ‘protected’ class – not ‘endangered’ class). I would imagine that they would prefer to leverage their energy on the domesticated cows that they herd, rather than running around the hot Savannah in summer trying to catch a huge, fast and dangerous Lion. Even catching game that’s easier to catch like rabbits, kudos, antelopes, quail, etc is rarely practiced amongst the Masai's. If none of the brave hunters of one of the most infamous hunter–gatherers ethnic groups does not kill Lions for meat, then I doubt that the burly politicians in the African cities and towns or the sedentary villagers that trade in the market have acquired a taste for this meat either over the years. There are some restaurants in Africa like Carnival in Kenya, and Game in South Africa, that are specialty restaurants that serve uncommon game meats but Lion is not even on their menus. I have heard that the South African one serves Zebra, Giraffe (which is considered Kosher by the Jewish Rabbi's) and Alligator, but there is little difference with that practice and a restaurant in the US in the South that may serve crocodile, or the real-life restaurant in Chicago that does serve Lion meat ribs. So, even if someone finds and isolated case of Lion meat being served (and please comment below, if this is the case), one cant apply this to any whole ethnic group, country or, even worse, continent.

According to the UK Telegraph's Article , the restaurant owner, Selogie, also points out that, "In Africa they do eat lions, so I assume if it's OK for Africans to eat lions then it should be OK for us." "ooh say it again.. Mufasa! Ooh say it again" -- to suggest that eating Lion is a common practice in Africa or any African country sends shivers down my spine. It’s not like you go to the market and order a pound of lion meat, or come home to find a lion paw sticking out of mama's pot. Can you imagine the uproar if during the Olympics held in China, a US restaurant began to serve Dog or Cat patties? How furious would the Chinese Americans and Chinese people be over that move if they do not largley consume these animal.s? While animal rights groups are taking notice of this move, they seemed to have glanced over Selogie’s justification for serving meat – and yes, I will say it again, "In Africa they do eat lions, so I assume if it's OK for Africans to eat lions then it should be OK for us." To them this argument is a lesser point because the belief that Africans eat Lions has just been internalized (if it wasn’t lingering at the back of their minds already) as fact and their main concern is the animal rights aspect of this.

So why aren’t Africans as a community dispelling this or calling for boycotts of that restaurant? The African tendency seems to lean towards sitting quietly in the home and laughing at the ignorance of our less travelled neighbors, shrugging it off because there are bigger battles to fight, complaining to each other (preaching to the choir), or yelling at the wall that doesn’t talk back. Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle of Arizona, a burger-loving brave young American warrior is honoring Africans by eating a Lion burger and perhaps, toasting us with a bottle of JC Leroux.

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