Zoo places lion on gluten-free, vegan diet

Jun 3rd, 2014 | By | Category: Feature, New, News
Sefu, which means "Lord of the Meow" in Swahili, seen at The Alberta Zoo. Photo by flickr user dbarronoss

Sefu, which means “Lord of the Meow” in Swahili, seen at The Alberta Zoo. Photo by flickr user dbarronoss

By Urban Anomie

The Alberta Zoo has an overweight lion on its hands, and plans to combat the problem by placing its pride and joy, Sefu, on an all-natural gluten-free, vegan diet.

Alonzo Ramos, director of Research and Veterinary Programs at The Alberta Zoo, says his team has spent “like, three hours” researching all manner of quack-fu and pseudoscience, and firmly believes this approach will be of the most benefit to Sefu, who celebrated his fourth birthday in February.

“Sefu hasn’t been in the best of moods this past year,” says Ramos. “I’m sure it has nothing to do with the 20-by-20-foot cell we have him confined to for 18 hours a day, but probably more to do with his weight.”

Ramos says vegans typically weight five to 20 percent less than their meat-eating counterparts, and his team thinks Sefu will benefit from going gluten-free as well as vegan, because “gluten makes you fat, they say.”

“Gluten is, um, a by-product of seeds or something, and it’s really bad for you, I guess,” says Ramos, who went gluten-free himself after a trip to California in 2011.

Researchers and animal rights activists are furious over the zoo’s decision, saying lions need meat and bones, which are essential to maintaining healthy lives.

“Big cats require diets very high in protein and fat,“ says Gillian Dirks of RawrWatch, a non-profit zoo watchdog group based out of Toronto. “Bones and hooves play an important role in cleaning the lions’ teeth and gums by removing tartar, which is a problem with captive lions.”

But the zoo says people need not worry about the lack of protein.

“We’ll be giving him plenty of tofu and legumes to snack on, which are quite high in protein, says Ramos. “Almond milk, spinach, raspberries, avocado, carrots, red and green peppers . . . he’ll be getting a boat load of nutrients.”

Critics argue what the zoo is doing is mean, and the zoos misguided attempts to ‘go healthy’ are both ignorant and un-natural.

“Lions are carnivores,” says Zack Trisk, who was spending the day at the zoo with his two daughters. “They shouldn’t be eating lettuce and zucchini. Hell, I can barely stand to eat lettuce and zucchini.”

The Alberta Zoo is no stranger to controversy, having forced their gorillas to wear clothes for the public’s benefit in 2008, and having accidentally let loose a rampaging giraffe in downtown Calgary in 2012 which killed 17 people and injured countless more as it crashed through a plus-15.

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