05/20/2013 08:29 pm ET

Lion Meat: San Francisco Bay Area Restaurant Stops Selling Controversial Dish After Public Outcry


If you're like pretty much no one else in the universe, the first thing you thought when Rafiki held up Simba at the beginning of "The Lion King" was, "I wonder what that adorable lion cub would taste like smothered in barbeque sauce?"

But lion is what was for dinner at Mokutanya, a Japanese restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Burlingame. However, after public outcry and alleged death threats, the restaurant has taken it off the menu.

Owner Jason Li, who said he purchased the lion meat from a facility where the animal was raised in Illinois, told ABC San Francisco that he was deluged with calls and emails from animal rights activists after posting on Facebook about his intention to serve $70 lion skewers.

"Some of them [sic] is really nice and peaceful like 'oh, can you stop selling lion meat?'" Li explained. "And some of them is like saying 'oh, I going to come in and rape you and kill you.'"

Mokutanya also briefly offered lion meat last year and it proved so popular that the restaurant sold out of its one-time order in less than a week.

Meat from African lions is legal to consume in the United States because the species is listed as threatened rather than endangered, but that hasn't stopped a lot of people from getting offended at the idea of chowing down on the king of the jungle.

"Whether the lion was raised on a farm in Illinois or shot in the Serengeti and immediately put on ice and shipped to the United States, we think it sucks," the Peninsula Humane Society's Ken White told the San Mateo County Times. "These are animals that we need to treasure."

Similarly, a Mexican restaurant in Tampa, Fla. took lion meat tacos off of its menu earlier this month after employees started receiving bomb threats and the location's general manager was assaulted by one particularly incensed animal lover.

The number of lions in the wild has decreased by over 50 percent in the past two decades and there's been a push to get the big cats put on the endangered species list. Additionally, a bill recently introduced in the Illinois legislature would ban the sale of lion meat in the state.

But, the question remains: what does lion meat taste like?

"It's a little tougher than I expected," San Mateo resident and Mokutanya patron Andy Lee explained to CBS San Francisco. "It's kind of between beef and chicken."



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