Last week, I set out to write what was supposed to be a brief, newsy post about a Tucson Mexican restaurant that was going to be serving lion-meat tacos as part of an "Exotic Tacos Wednesday" promotion that has already seen python, alligator, kangaroo, and turtle on the menu. The restaurant, Boca Tacos y Tequila, had scheduled the lion-taco feast for February 16 and was already taking preorders.
Looks like you're safe, Lion. For now . . .
But of course, once I started thinking about lion tacos, I also started thinking about reindeer sausage, field mice, and some of the stranger, more delicious things I have eaten in my time. And once I started thinking about that, it was just a short jump to a list of unusual animals that either have been or should be turned into food: things like ortolans, horses, dinosaurs, and penguins. I've always been fascinated by the food taboos that allow us to guiltlessly eat certain animals, but not others. I mean, if you're willing to eat a pig, why not a dolphin? If it's OK to eat a cow steak, why not one from a horse?
Anyway, I went off for a while about a dozen or so interesting animals to eat, and then let the whole thing go. Tucson is a long way from Seattle, after all, and the odds of my being able to jet down there, eat a lion taco, and then come home were not good.
And then yesterday, I found out that even those people living in Tucson who were looking forward to a little Simba adobada weren't going to get their chance. And why? Because the restaurant's owner, Bryan Mazon, had gotten so many threats against himself, his family, and his employees from pissed-off animal-rights nutjobs that he felt he had to pull the lion tacos from his menu.
"Due to concern for safety of our families, customers, vendors, and friends," Boca posted on its Facebook page, "we will not be selling African Lion Tacos on Feb. 16th, 2011. We will continue to bring unique and creative menu items, but not at the expense of safety."
According to reports, Mazon and Boca received 20-25 direct threats and hundreds of indirect ones from folks angry enough about the serving of meat in a taco that they felt it appropriate to threaten the lives and livelihoods of those doing the serving. Mazon received threats at home after his personal information was listed by critics. People were threatening him and his family, over dinner.
This is how seriously folks take the slim differences between what we are "allowed" to eat and what is taboo. So I ask again, can someone explain to me the difference between eating a lion and eating, say, a deer? Can someone tell me why it would be right to threaten the life of a person in order to stop him from serving some tacos?
Personally, I don't think Mazon should've given in. I understand his fear for his family and his employees. I get how threats of violence can spook someone. But he was breaking no laws. He was doing nothing wrong. And yet he was bullied into pulling the tacos from his menu by a bunch of cowards who think that the best way to make their point is to post Facebook threats or to shout into a telephone in the middle of the night. That's just sad.