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Roaring hungry for a lion steak? Lawmaker wants to ban it in Illinois

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Updated: April 10, 2013 6:13AM

SPRINGFIELD-Lion meat sandwich anyone?

That might not be an option much longer for Illinois residents if a state lawmaker has his way.

Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) is pushing legislation to ban the sale and slaughter of lion meat in the state, injecting an offbeat and marginal issue into a spring legislative session dominated by gun control and a crushing pension crisis.

“There are people that have them and raise them, but you’re going to raise them and eat them?” Arroyo asked incredulously.

“It’s just inhumane. Those are zoo animals. Then you talk about eating elephants, eating all kinds of zoo animals. There’s other meats we can eat besides the lions.”

Under his measure, anyone dealing in the commercialization of lion meat for human consumption could be tossed in jail for up to one year or fined up to $25,000.

While certain species of exotic cats are considered endangered in the United States, lions are currently not protected, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Arroyo revealed he was presented with the idea for the ban by “a very interesting person” and said he’s aware of at least two places in the state where he believes the meat is sold. But he would not divulge exactly where the businesses are located.

There’s at least one exotic meat proprietor in the Chicago-area who used to sell lion meat – a family business claiming to date back to 1914 when founded by Hungarian immigrant, John Czimer. According to its website, Czimer’s Game & Seafood in Homer Glen sold anything from ostrich to black bear as of 2011 and at one time, boasted $24.95 per pound African lion tenderloins.

But according to a lawsuit filed U.S. District court, the meat shop became enveloped in controversy in 2003 when its owner and general manger at the time, Richard Czimer, Jr., was sentenced to six months in prison for involvement in an animal trafficking ring that purchased and sold endangered tiger and leopard meat throughout the 1990’s.

Though its website appears up-and-running, Czimer’s Game & Seafood did not answer phone calls as of press time. And a note on the website indicates items like smoked meats and jerkies are currently unavailable “until [Czimer’s] can satisfy new county regulations and requirements.”

As Arroyo works to advance the lion meat ban to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn, federal authorities may beat the legislator to the punch.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service petitioned the federal government last November to make the African lion an endangered species in the states, in response to requests from a handful of animal rights groups. But the department’s petition is still under review.

Meanwhile, as Illinois continues to face burdensome fiscal pressures and a colossal shortfall in its pension systems, its residents are left to wonder just how much more time they will have to feast on the king of the jungle.

And in Springfield, Arroyo – who admitted he’s never tried lion meat before – continues to advance the cause.

“You know what? If you don’t eat the lion, the lion’s going to eat you,” he said, chuckling to himself. “But I don’t want it to be like that.”

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