12:02 PM EDT, May 17, 2013
Served as burgers, kabobs and even in tacos, lion meat is showing up more and more on menus across the country. It’s perfectly legal, but it’s not cheap. One lion taco will cost you almost $40.00; a lion kabob: $70.00.
While many adventurous eaters enjoy tasting the king of the jungle, others say it’s a cruel end for these majestic felines. The lion controversy has everybody talking. Jay leno quipped on the Tonight Show this week after a Tampa, Florida, restaurant received deaths threats for serving lion tacos.
“A Tampa taco restaurant has pulled lion meat tacos from the menu due to protests from animal rights activists. However, lions announced today they will continue eating humans whenever they get the chance,” joked Leno.
The restaurant says it still serves the lion tacos.
But Adam Roberts of Born Free USA says it’s no laughing matter and is fighting to get lion taken off the menu.
“There's no reason for it. It’s a growing trend and it needs to stop now,” said Roberts.
INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero asked, “If it’s perfectly legal to sell lion meat here what's the problem?”
"Because we don't know actually what's in the lion meat,” said Roberts.
Roberts says the meat is unsafe because there's no regulation or proper inspection process.
So where does lion meat come from?
Anshu Pathak owns exotic meat market.com. For $200.00 dollars a pound, he'll ship frozen lion patties in time to grill over memorial day weekend. He also sold the lion stew meat that ended up in those tacos at the tampa restaurant.
We bought a pound of ground lion meat from him at his non-descript office near Los Angeles.
"This is 100% lion meat," Pathak told INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero.
To prove how safe it is, Pathak sliced up raw ground lion meat and then ate it.
'This is lion meat, it's raw lion meat and you're eating it right now?" asked Guerrero.
"Yes,” answered Pathak between chewing mouthfuls of raw flesh.
Pathak claims his lions are raised commercially for their meat, but he refused to show INSIDE EDITION where he keeps his cats for fear animal activist groups will attack him.
But he’s not the only one selling lion meat for human consumption. We found lion meat being sold at czimer's wild game, a butcher shop located outside Chicago.
Guerrero tried to speak with the Czimer outside his butcher shop but he wasn’t interested in talking.
"I’d like to talk to you about the lion meat that you're selling,” asked Guerrero.
"I don't talk to reporters," said czimer.
"Were not used to it here but I think we’re starting to get more adventurous and I say why not?" said Georgia Pelligrini, a wild game chef and author of girl hunter.
Pelligrini sees nothing wrong with lion on the menu as long as it’s raised humanely. She agreed to cook up a batch of lion ricotta meatballs and after a quick spin around the frying pan, she tasted them.
"It's a little bit sweeter than beef. It's a little more chewy, but it’s wonderful," said Pelligrini.
Four other diners volunteered for a taste test. After chewing down, the verdict was in.
"The flavor is good but, there's something. I can't do it. It’s not for me,” said one young woman.
"It's really delicious, but I don't think I would order it because I can't get over the fact that it’s a lion, king of the jungle,” said another women.
An Illinois lawmaker recently proposed a new law that would ban the sale and consumption of lion meat. Roberts hopes it will pass.
"The majestic cats have no business on a dinner plate," said Roberts.