An image showing three Syrian men next to a dead lion, with one of the men cutting up the lion’s hind legs, has caught the attention of both social media and international media.

The photo is being used as “proof” that the people of Syria are so hungry that they’ve resorted to killing zoo animals for food.

However, this is not necessarily what is happening.

The photo was apparently taken at a zoo in the al-Qarya al-Shamya Zoo. Al-Ghouta is a suburb of Damascus that is divided into East Ghouta and West Ghouta,and apparently the Syrian Regime has managed to cut off all resources to the area by closing main highways and military roads to East Ghouta.

The Independent have reported that Syria clerics “issued a fatwa” that allows people living in the besieged areas to eat meats that are normally forbidden under Islamic law, including dogs, cats and donkeys.

Some have pointed out the lion could have already been dead, and although people in the area are starving, Now have explained that local residents are saying they don’t need lion meat to survive:

The men could have ‘mercy killed’ a sick lion because of the lack of medication; they could also be using its coat of fur because temperatures have decreased. However, slaughtering a lion for the sake of eating it is not the case in al-Ghouta (at least that is what al-Ghouta residents have asserted): ‘We don’t need to consume lion meat, nor cat meat. YES, we are hungry and suffering from the lack of resources, but whoever is trying to advertise for our humanitarian crisis surely did it wrong using lions, cats and donkeys.’

Whether or not the lion was already dead, a “mercy kill”, or was in fact being used for food has not been confirmed, and perhaps it will remain one of of the many unanswered questions about the situation in Syria.

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