An African bull frog. R. Andrew Odum/Photodisk/Getty Images
Frog legs are most commonly associated with French cuisine, but records show the culinary delicacy was commonly eaten in southern China since at least the first century CE. The first recordings of the French the consumption of frogs’ legs dates from around the 12th century, when French monks began eating them during Lent, as they were not considered meat, The Guardian reported.
Frog legs are still a popular dish in many countries and, according to “Deadly Dish”, a new report by German animal protection organization Pro Wildlife and French NGO Robin des Bois, the gastronomic popularity of frog legs frogs in the European Union (EU) has led to the depletion of frog species in Turkey, Albania and Indonesia, according to a press release from Pro Wildlife.
“In the 1980s, India and Bangladesh initially supplied frog legs to Europe, but Indonesia has become the biggest supplier since the 1990s. In this Southeast Asian country, as in Turkey and Albania, large frog species are disappearing one after another – all this is a fatal domino effect for species protection,” Pro Wildlife co-founder Dr Sandra Altherr told the press. Release.
At least 17 percent of amphibians – 1,200 species – are traded internationally, according to Jennifer Luedtke, head of Red List assessments for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as reported by The Guardian.
The Habitats Directive bans the capture of native wild frogs in all 27 EU member countries, but none of the countries impose restrictions on imports.
Pro Wildlife said 70% of imported frog meat goes to Belgium, which then sends most of its imports to France. France itself imports 16.7% and the Netherlands 6.4%.
Seventy-four percent of EU frog imports come from Indonesia, while Vietnam supplies 21%, Turkey 4% and Albania 0.7%.
As the largest importer of frog legs in the world, the EU imports around 4,070 tonnes every year, or around 81 to 200 million frogs, mostly wild-caught. Species with larger legs are particularly sought after, making them more vulnerable to overfeeding.
The largest edible water frog in Turkey, Pelophylax caralitanuscommonly called the Anatolian frog, is currently classified as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. According to The Guardian, scientists stated that the species could be extinct in Turkey as early as 2032. Other frog species imported into the EU from abroad are also threatened.
The Albanian Scutari water frog (Pelophylax shqipericus) is currently a highly endangered species, Pro Wildlife said.
“If the plunder of the European market continues, it is highly likely that we will see more severe declines in wild frog populations and, potentially, extinctions over the next decade,” Altherr said, as noted. reported The Guardian.
The consumption of frog legs in other countries such as China and Cambodia has led to the IUCN classification of vulnerable and near threatened for some species. Fewer than 250 adult Togo slipper frogs are thought to exist, and the giant African bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) may have already disappeared.
The legs of most frogs are cut with scissors or axes without anesthesiasaid Pro Wildlife, as reported by the Daily Mail.
Altherr has called for an end to this and other inhumane practices, The Guardian reported.
“Most frogs have their legs cut off with an ax or scissors in unison – without anesthesia. The top half is removed while it is dying, the legs are skinned and frozen for export,” Altherr said in the press release.
Robin de Bois and Pro Wildlife would like EU countries to restrict their imports of frog legs while ensuring frog leg products can be traced, The Guardian reported. They would also like EU members to develop endangered species listing proposals for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
In addition to harming the frogs themselves, the overexploitation of amphibians and the resulting decline in their numbers has a direct effect on the ecosystems in which they live.
“Frogs play a central role in the ecosystem as insect killers – and where frogs are disappearing, the use of toxic pesticides is increasing. So the trade in frog legs not only has direct consequences on frogs themselves, but also on nature conservation,” Robin des Bois president Charlotte Nithart said, as the Pro Wildlife statement said.