This is not a time for lion tacos
Last week in Tampa, Florida - Taco Fusion, a taqueria known for its “exotic” food offerings made national headlines by adding lion tacos to its menu. Later in the week, following outcry in both mainstream and social media – which unfortunately included physical threats to the restaurant’s employees -- Taco Fusion removed the lion tacos from the menu.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) does not condone these threats of violence in any way, which were used to intimidate the restaurant and it is an unfortunate circumstance.
In the past few days the restaurant’s manager has defiantly hinted at bringing back the controversial taco, which begs the question - is Taco Fusion really trying to leverage this controversy to gain public attention at the expense of lions, whose population is in critical danger?
This may not be the best tactic as a recent Synovate poll found that 63 percent of Americans would no longer frequent an establishment if it served lion meat.
An even more disturbing piece of this story is the fact that the lion meat served at Taco Fusion was being purchased from a “vendor” in Illinois – home of a notorious butcher already arrested once for selling endangered species such as tiger and leopard, disguised as lion meat.
This also brings to the forefront an issue that IFAW and a coalition of animal welfare organizations have been petitioning to the U.S. government for two years – which is to list the African lion as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The African lion population in their natural environment has dropped by more than 50 percent over the last three decades, and likely fewer than 35,000 remain in the wild. After the events of this past week, we again call on the U.S. government to be proactive on this issue and give the African lion the endangered listing that they so desperately need.
If listed as endangered, it would be illegal for vendors and restaurant to offer lion meat in the U.S., and even more importantly for wild populations, it would prohibit the import of lions hunted for sport in Africa.
Trophy hunting of lions has been found to be directly contributing to the species’ decline, and well over half of all lions killed in Africa for sport are killed by Americans.
Time and time again we have seen that there is simply no place in the U.S. culinary industry for the sale and consumption of these types of exotic meats.
IFAW believes that respectful and persistent public opposition to the sale of an imperiled species is the right way to stop this exploitation, and that is what we will advocate if Taco Fusion adds lions back to the menu.
IFAW also believes that the time is now for the US government to protect lions at a federal level – both from disrespectful inclusion of lions as a novelty menu item, and from the significant losses at the hands of American trophy hunters; the African lion needs to be protected, and now.