You Can Still Eat African Lion Meat in the U.S., but Not for Long

You Can Still Eat African Lion Meat in the U.S., but Not for Long

African lions are the only big cats in the world not listed as threatened or endangered species. But a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal could change that and give these cats protection to keep them off of dinner plates.

That’s right: African lion bush meat is widely consumed on the continent and exported around the world. It’s the number one reason African lions are being so aggressively hunted. Lions, who prey on livestock animals such as goats or sheep, are often killed by ranchers. The ranchers then sell the animal meat. In just the last two decades, African lion populations have dropped by 30 percent.

“Demographers believe the human population in sub-Saharan Africa will double by 2050,” Daniel M. Ashe, the director of Fish and Wildlife told the Washington Post. “Unless things improve, lions will face extinction. It’s up to us and not just the people of Africa to ensure that lions will continue to roam.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, lions are being hunted by humans at “unsustainable levels.” Numbers have dropped from approximately 75,000 African lions in 1980 to fewer than 33,000 presently. The agency is recommending the animals be listed as threatened rather than endangered after a two-year assessment concluded that African lions are not facing “an immediate risk” of extinction, but according to Ashe, the majestic animals could “disappear in the foreseeable future” if they are not protected.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has spoken out against at least ten American restaurants that serve lion meat on their menus since 2010,” One Green Planet reports. “At least one of them boasts serving lion tacos, others serve this animal’s flesh as steak.”

If listed as endangered, which several animal protection groups asked the Obama administration to do in 2012, remains of African lions would not be permitted to be imported into the U.S. “Hunting and trophies are allowed in the U.S. for threatened animals, but hunters must apply for permits and the government can refuse a permit if it believes the plight of the species has worsened,” the Post explains. But even under the threatened species rule, which is being recommended, the Fish and Wildlife Service says it “will put in place a new permitting system for importing lion hunting trophies into the United States. Such trophies will be permitted only from nations that carefully use hunting as a way to manage lions to help preserve the species.”

“We’re in danger of losing many African species,” One Green Planet noted. “Thankfully attention is being brought to many of these animals and we have time to work and protect them.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.