Florida restaurant causes controversy over lion meat tacos

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TAMPA (WFTS) A small south Tampa restaurant is causing quite a stir over a unique item offered on their menu: lion meat.

For $35 dollars taco lovers can try lion, as in, the king of the jungle.

“I thought the lion was good,” said patron Lee Weiner. “It didn’t taste too gamey to me, similar to steak.”

Since Taco Fusion opened in February they have built a reputation for their unconventional taco filings. They have previously offered game like beaver and otter, but the controversy didn’t start until lion meat made it’s way onto their menu.

“I really don’t like that at all,” said McKenzie Bremer who opposed the restaurant’s decision and said that a threatened species should not be served at a taco place.

Wild animal advocacy group Born Free USA embarked on an undercover investigation into the lion meat trade in 2011, and as part of their campaign to curb the trade, have petitioned to have African lion listed as “endangered” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the petition presented substantial evidence indicating that listing this subspecies may be warranted, but has yet to issue a finding.

The owners say the lion meat comes from a vendor who raises lions strictly for sale of consumption.

According to Taco Fusion manager, Brad Barnett, the restaurant wanted to offer patrons the change to try different things, though they have seen mixed reactions to the new menu item. The restaurant has seen harsh reactions on social media, some going as far as making harmful threats.

“We have people who just sit on their couch and just want to go online and say things, be hurtful, make threats,” said Barnett.

Jeff Kremer, with the Big Cat Rescue that rescues lions and similar large cats, questioned Taco Fusion’s decision. “There is obviously an animal welfare concern and there is a bigger picture. The bigger concern is where do we, as society, draw the line for what is acceptable for moral and ethical behavior,” Kremer stated.

Barnett offered a simple solution to the controversy, “If you don’t like it, don’t eat it.”

Taco Fusion briefly pulled the controversial item from its menu, but has since reversed that decision, according to Tampa’s FOX 13.

The company posted a message on its website that read in part:

“As a country, and hell, maybe as a planet, our food processing systems are not pretty, only efficient. They are not politically correct, and certainly need work. But if you are crying out in the name of diversity, in the name of freedom, in the name of rescuing a Lion, then why don’t you cry out for Cows? Who decides which animals are worthy? If the argument is that a Lion is “Majestic” so you shouldn’t breed them for meat consumption- then what is the lesson here That only the majestic pretty girls get treated well and the ugly ones go to the slaughter pen? How pompous and idiotic does that sound?”

CNN contributed to this report.