Earlier this week, I drove down to far south Homer Glen to visit Czimer's, a 100-year-old butcher shop specializing in game and seafood…particularly large game and seafood. Rich Czimer is a loquacious, eccentric gentleman, quite knowledgeable and committed to a business that has been in his family for a century.
Walking in, one of the first things I spotted in the freezer cabinet was lion, both as bratwurst and steak.
I posted a picture of the lion bratwurst, mentioned that I planned to buy some lion steaks, and got a lot of quizzical and sometimes angry responses on Instagram and Facebook, as well as in face-to-face conversations. People couldn't understand how this could be a good thing to do.
"These are all domestic animals here," Czimer told me, and he explained that his products have all passed state and federal inspections.
Now, truth be told, Czimer has had some trouble with the law, selling tiger meat (which is illegal) labeled as lion (which is legal). He got six months – and the further indignity of having his store torched by the Animal Liberation Front.
Lion meat is a farmed product, raised under controlled circumstances at licensed facilities, inspected by USDA, and in that sense the meat of the lion is the same as pork or beef.
Lions, however, are perceived as different than cows or pork. That's because lions are "noble," "kings of the jungle," etc., portrayed on screen by the likable Simba and his family as well as a host of other regal beasts, including Hubert the Harris Lion and the MGM logo.
Such flattering and romanticized portrayals lead some to believe that lions are categorically different than other animals that we readily eat. Yet, they are all god's creatures, as are we. We just happen to be at the top of the food chain (thanks, mostly, to superior weaponry).
It seems to me that, if you're a carnivore, objecting to the consumption of lion meat is hypocritical. Pigs, we're told, are very intelligent and cows have beautiful eyes – maybe neither is as noble as the lion, but both deserve to live – and die for our dinner – as much as the lion does.
Pork and beef are tasty, but that culinary value is not a moral justification for slaughtering them, yet, that's all the justification most meat eaters (including me) require. So if lion is, indeed, tasty (and I have not as yet eaten the meat of this cat) why doesn't that same rationale apply? Why is it so wrong to eat lion meat, assuming it's raised in the same approved conditions as other livestock, and like those livestock, raised for no other reason than to be harvested.
Or maybe it's not a question of right or wrong, but of what one can comfortably put in one's mouth.