Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Appalling Truth of the Lion Meat Trade

A few months ago, I started a petition on against the sale of African lion meat in U.S. exotic meat shops. The petition has only received a decent amount of signatures (about 4,400 as of last count) but it's a start. More support is needed to make an impact strong enough to stop the sale of meat of an iconic animal like the African Lion. If you take a close look at the practices of the multi-billion dollar exotic meat industry in the U.S., what you'll find is very appalling.

One exotic meat shop currently selling lion meat is Czimer's Meat and Seafood in Homer Glen, Illinois which is owned by Richard Czimer. Prior to posting the petition, I found that Czimer's no stranger to running afoul of the law, especially where exotic animals are concerned. Below is a link to an article with more details on his lack of regard for exotic or protected animals:

Here's a short list of Czimer's (and his cohorts') shenanigans from the same article:

  • Purchasing the meat of a federally-protected black spotted leopard in August 1997, a felony violation of the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife protection law. 
  • Purchasing the carcasses of 16 federally-protected tigers, four lions, two mountain lions and one liger(a tiger-lion hybrid). The animals were then skinned, butchered and sold as lion meat at Czimer's Meat and Seafoods, Inc. 
  • Part of a group that bought and killed exotic tigers, leopards, snow leopards, lions, mountain lions, cougars, mixed breed cats and black bears with the intention of introducing the meat, skins and parts into the lucrative animal parts trade.

An excerpt from the Fox News article in the link below implies that the acquisition or farming/raising, slaughter, labeling, inspection and selling of these exotic meats are carried out within the confines of USDA oversight. Yeah, right.

The quote I'm referring to is:

Since the exotic meat market is small, 
the animals are farm-raised in small herds, 
pasture-fed and processed in USDA-approved slaughterhouses.

Hmmm. Processed in USDA-approved slaughterhouses? If you want to learn a bit more about the so-called USDA-approved method of killing the sixteen animals referenced in the bulleted list above, you just have to dig a bit deeper in your research. Keep in mind that many of these were federally protected animals.

The grisly truth of what really occurred is described in the article linked to below. It was  discovered during an undercover investigation carried out by agents from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The article describes how the exotic cats were delivered to a warehouse under cover of dark, prodded with sticks to get them in the best position to shoot, and then shot in their cages by a group of greedy cowards. I hardly think that's considered a USDA-approved humane slaughtering method.

Czimer is still selling his exotic meats. Do you honestly he's had a change of heart and changed his methods, how he gets the meat, how it's killed, processed, whether it's inspected or properly labeled? I seriously doubt it. The fact that he's still selling lion meat is a good indication that this guy has no interest in the welfare or future of the African lion or any federally protected animals, for that matter.

The article below states that Czimer admitted to agents that he knew his meat was labeled as lion meat when it was actually [federally protected] tiger meat. Keep in mind this is occurring within a multi-billion dollar business.

In the DNA Info article below, Czimer's arrogance and ignorance are on fully display when he  calls Rep. Arroyo "stupid" and Arroyo's bill a "publicity ploy." This statement is coming from a guy who thinks it's okay to kill federally protected animals for steaks and burgers. And from a guy who's already confessed to, and been convicted of, illegally purchasing, slaughtering and selling federally protected animals.  

In 2011, Born Free conducted an investigation into the sale of lion meat and went on to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to list the lion as endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act. The Agency found enough evidence to warrant listing the African lion as endangered, but haven't yet issued a ruling pending the review of public response. This means they set a time period (something like 90 days) for the U.S. public to write in and voice their support or opposition. 

Even though an animal may be listed as endangered in its native country, the U.S. has its own Act under which certain animals are protected. Classification of the African lion as endangered in the U.S. would make it illegal to import them (or their body parts - what hunters refer to as "trophies"), or to sell or slaughter them for the sale of their meat. 

We may have an unlikely hero in the form of an Illinois state representative. Enter  Illinois State Representative Luis Arroyo.  Arroyo (a Dem) is sponsoring a state bill that would ban the sale of lion meat as well as the slaughter of lions for this purpose. Please feel free to write and support Rep. Arroyo on his proposed bill so we can stop this. Arroyo is also on Twitter (@RepArroyo) if you'd like to tweet your support.

Several news outlets covered this story; below you'll find links to a couple articles on Czimer and the proposed ban on lion meat:

What can you do? Please sign the petition and write (or tweet) Rep. Arroyo to show your support of his proposed bill to ban lion meat in Illinois. It would only be banned in one state, but that's a start. Hopefully the Fish & Wildlife Service will pick up the ball and do the right thing by listing the lion as endangered in the U.S.

Thank you for caring about the future of the African Lion. 

Below are a few shots of African lions from some of my recent trips to that continent. Their survival is important ... and your help is appreciated.

More lion and wildlife photography may be found at Wildfolio Photography.

Animals Matter.


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