Recently two friends and I went to Chinatown in Los Angeles to document the inhumane and environmentally destructive trade of amphibians for food. The American Bullfrog is the choice frog for food in the United States and millions are being kept in crowded, cramped and unsanitary conditions in markets around the state of California. Would the same be true for Los Angeles?
We surveyed about ten different markets and we found two stores that sold live American Bullfrogs. However, frogs were clearly being consumed in Chinatown as they were on the menu at most restaurants. The live frogs we found were kept in similar conditions as those I observed in San Francisco. I was surprised to not find more available, but I feel this is because the survey was conducted on a Sunday afternoon when some stores were closed and the streets were not flooded with shoppers.
At a pet store we found American Bullfrogs for sale. The clerk told me they cost $20 (much more expensive than the $4.49 per pound price offered at the meat markets).
We found a few stores that sold frozen frog legs. The frogs were farm raised and originally imported from China. One of the world’s largest consumers of frog legs, many of which are imported from neighboring Southeast Asian countries, China also has a proliferating frog farm industry.
While we did not find many frogs for sale, turtles are definitely still on the menu in Los Angeles. In San Francisco I observed holding tanks with dozens of turtles, but in Los Angeles the numbers were not nearly as high. However, many stores offered live turtles for sale.
In the back corner of a store, we found this large softshell turtle. Do you notice the abrasions and scratches on her shell? Who knows what torment she has been forced to endure in her lifetime. It is important to understand that these animals are seen as food, and are treated carelessly and without respect.
Chinatown is a destination for tourists and many stores sell cheap trinkets. You can imagine our surprise as we found multiple stores that were illegally selling hatchling Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) for only five dollars! When did a life become a novelty item? I asked the clerk how big the turtles will be as adults and they told me “they stay small for a very long time.” As you can see in the other photos, turtles can get quite large and if kept in the proper conditions, a Red-eared Slider’s shell will grow to at least four inches plus in its first year. Under California law it is illegal to sell turtles with a shell diameter of less than four inches. We found a family who recently bought a pair of turtles and we educated them about the law and how to properly care for their new pet. Due to lack of education and improper care, many of these turtle will die before their first birthday.
It is well understood by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that the sale of the American Bullfrogs and non-native turtles for food has spread disease and invasive species. However, it’s big business and they allow the import of these animals into the state. One way they address the issue is to have many stores place this sign in their front window or where the animals are being sold. This sign, observed in San Francisco, was never observed in Los Angeles.
Here’s how you can help:
–Visit the SAVE THE FROGS! website and learn about the problem with eating frog legs and how these invasive species upset the balance of native ecosystems.
NEVER EAT FROG MEAT AND DO NOT BUY WILD-CAUGHT FROGS
–The trade of the American Bullfrog is what causes the spread of disease and invasive species. Do not support the trade of amphibians.
SIGN THE PETITION
–SAVE THE FROGS! supports a ban on the importation, sale, release and possession of American Bullfrogs into and within areas to which they do not belong, i.e. anywhere outside eastern North America. SAVE THE FROGS! requests that teachers and pet seekers not purchase American Bullfrogs or their tadpoles, as either you or the biological supplier has a high chance of being located outside the frogs’ native range.
Sign the petition to ban the import of American Bullfrogs into the state of California: www.savethefrogs.com/bullfrog-petition