A newly proposed Illinois bill could make the land of Lincoln the first U.S. state to make the sale of lion meat illegal.
The proposal, HB 2991, was filed late last month by state Rep. Luis Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat, and was assigned Thursday to the state’s Agriculture & Conservation Committee.
The bill would make it illegal for anyone in Illinois “to slaughter a lion or for any person to possess, breed, import or export from this State, buy, or sell lions for the purpose of slaughter.” Any violation of a provision of the proposed law would be a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. To our knowledge, no other state has a law on the books specifically banning the sale of lion meat.
The sale of lion meat is controversial — but legal, currently — in the United States and has had ties to the Chicago area: Czimer’s Game & Sea Foods, an exotic meat supplier based in Homer Glen, previously supplied the meat of an endangered species that was being passed off as “lion” meat to a restauranteur and its owner received a six-month prison sentence.
When HuffPost Chicago reached out to the office of the bill’s chief sponsor for comment, Rep. Arroyo’s staff was unaware of the legislation but promised to follow up.
According to a previous GOOD story, much of the lion meat being sold in the United States can be traced to Czimer’s — but how the suburban Chicago shop procures its inventory has remained a mystery.
While the African lion is currently not listed as an endangered species that is federally protected, that could change before too long: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last fall that the lions may soon receive the protection as their populations have declined by about 50 percent over the last three decades.
Animal-rights groups are currently pushing the USDA to ban the sale of lion meat nationally. As of Friday morning, over 158,000 people have signed onto a Change.org petition with that aim.
Meanwhile, restaurants’ publicity-grabbing exotic game dinners featuring lion burgers at various restaurants throughout the country have often been canceled in recent months amid a vocal backlash from animal-rights activists.