The consumption of frog legs, a delicacy in France and Belgium, is “driving species to extinction,” a German conservationist group said in a report last month.
Non-profit Pro Wildlife and French NGO Robin des Bois co-wrote an article published on June 23 warning that the population of frog species in the wild is dwindling as a result of continuous consumption of the delicacy in some European countries.
“In Indonesia, as now also in Turkey and Albania, large frog species are dwindling in the wild, one after the other, causing a fatal domino effect for species conservation,” Pro Wildlife co-founder Dr. Sandra Altherr said. “If the plundering for the European market continues, it’s highly likely that we will see more serious declines of wild frog populations and, potentially, extinctions in the next decade.”
Charlotte Nithart, the president of Robin des Bois, said that not only does the frog legs trade directly affect the species’ population, but it also affects overall biodiversity and ecosystem health. Nithart explained, “Frogs play a central role in the ecosystem as insect killers – and where frogs disappear, the use of toxic pesticides is increasing.”
Consumption and importation
According to the report, Europe imports as many as 200 million frog legs yearly, with Belgium accounting for 70% of imports. Although Belgium has the highest number of wild frog legs imported in a year, most of them were then taken to France, which brings in 16.7%, while the Netherlands takes in 6.4%.
France consumes as much as 4,000 tons — equivalent to 40 blue whales — of frog legs in a year. The European country also produces about 10 tons of frog meat yearly, taken from the data gathered from the five farms in France.
Frogs’ legs, known as cuisses de grenouilles, have been a delicacy in France since the 11th century. The European country also holds an annual fair called Foire aux Grenouilles, where roughly 20,000 visitors consume seven tons of frog in different dishes, including tarts, tourtes, salads, croustillants, cassolets and pizza.
“In the 1980s, India and Bangladesh were the first to supply frogs’ legs to Europe, but since the 1990s, Indonesia has taken over as the largest supplier,” Altherr said.
Indonesia is reportedly responsible for 74% of frog legs exported to European countries, followed by Vietnam with 21%, Turkey with 4% and Albania at 0.7%, the Pro Wildlife report noted.
Of the around 7,400 known frog species, only a few are being traded on the international market, including the Indonesian Javan giant frogs. Jennifer Luedtke, who manages the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list assessment, suggested around 1,200 amphibian species are currently being sold.
“It causes drastic population declines in the countries where these frogs originate from, as well as the unintentional spreading of lethal pathogens to amphibians,” Luedtke, who also coordinates the IUCN’s amphibian specialist group, said. “A shift in public consciousness needs to take place in Europe [to realize] that the burden of these declines in amphibian populations is being placed on poorer countries because of demand in wealthier ones.”
Besides European countries, frogs’ legs are also a delicacy in China and in the southern United States.
Concerning preparation process
Besides the declining population, Pro Wildlife and Robin des Bois also want to raise awareness of how traders prepare frogs’ legs when exporting to European countries.
“Most frogs have their legs cut off with axes or scissors in unison – without anesthesia. The upper half is disposed of while it is dying, the legs are skinned and frozen for export,” Altherr said in the report, calling for an end to the cruel practice.
The groups want to encourage European countries to restrict imports and develop listing proposals for endangered species in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), among other suggestions.
Image Charles J. Sharp (CC BY-SA 4.0)