In exhaustive scientific tests in North Africa, lions have expressed an overwhelming preference for Christian human flesh, with levels of appreciation unchanged since the heyday of big cat/ Christian consumption, nearly 2000 years ago.
The tests, carried out by the polling organisation Yougov, involved offering hungry lions a choice of either Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist flesh. In each case, the foods on offer were served live. In 97% of the tests involving 85 lions, Christians were first choice, even though the animals were not provided with any clue about the identity of their lunch, which was forbidden to shout religious messages or wear identifying clothing or jewellery.
Scientists and lions alike are at a loss to explain why the Christians were instinctively top of the menu. Dr Abraham Smith, a veterinary scientist and lion expert from San Diego zoo said all the foods in the experiment had been subject to laboratory tests, and no appreciable differences had been found that marked out the different religions. Nevertheless, Lions went for the Christians straight away.
One lion commented: “Surely the reason is simply cultural. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents, all the way back to Roman times, loved the great taste of Christian. That’s been passed down.”
Dr Smith, meanwhile, points to events in the test that may provide further clues. “We saw three individual Christians, all of them from the UK, being particularly relished by the Lions,” he told the magazine Nature. “They were eaten quickly and greedily with lions showing a good deal of enjoyment. One of the British Christians consumed had protested recently that prayer had been banned at a UK council meeting. Two others ran a Bed and Breakfast in a UK resort area. This may be prime facie evidence that what the lions are really going for is the flavour of people who feel they are being persecuted. It could explain a lot about lions and about religion.”
However, Dr George Clooney, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has protested at the experiments, saying they are “inconclusive” and calling for them to be repeated with a bigger survey of both lions and human believers. And Gene Vincent, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster suggested that expanded trials be repeated in Rome rather than North Africa. He has forwarded costume ideas to the Vatican and written to Sky TV with suggestions for televising the event.
“People underestimate how religious groups are still persecuted today,” said Archbishop Vincent. “These tests, shown on TV, will have a worldwide appeal and remind millions of Catholics, especially in Lion-related areas, that the only way to escape the ravages of death is to forego contraception and go forth and multiply”