According to one analysis, the appetite of some Europeans for frog legs is threatening entire stocks in the countries of origin in Asia and Southeast Europe. In addition: “Most frogs have their thighs cut off with an ax or scissors in unison – without anesthesia. The upper half is disposed of when it is dying, the legs are skinned and frozen for export,” said Sandra Altherr from the species protection organization Pro Wildlife. The “Deadly Dish” report, prepared jointly with French colleagues by Robin des Bois, was presented on Thursday.
According to this, the European Union imports about 4070 tons of frog legs every year – that corresponds to up to 200 million frogs. This makes the EU the world’s largest importer. The thighs are particularly popular in France, and Belgium and Holland are also major buyers. In Germany, too, you can often find them on the menus, especially in French restaurants.
While the majority of frogs for the US market came from farms, the vast majority of frogs for the EU were caught in the wild, the report said. The two species protection organizations warn that this is a massive threat to frog populations in the supplier countries. In addition, a fatal domino effect is triggered: “As insect killers, frogs play a central role in the ecosystem – and where frogs disappear, the use of toxic pesticides increases,” explained Charlotte Nithart from Robin des Bois. The consequences for the environment and people are serious.
“We have to restrict trade in these species throughout the EU, or even better internationally,” Altherr demanded in an interview with the dpa. Catching and selling native frogs has been largely banned in the EU since 1992, so since then people have been unabashedly importing them from countries where catching frogs is allowed – regardless of the consequences for the ecosystems there.
In Indonesia, for example, but now even in Turkey and Albania, the stocks of the big-legged frog species are already severely depleted, Altherr explained. As early as 2017, scientists were no longer able to detect the once popular Java frogs in DNA analyzes of Indonesian frozen goods – despite a different declaration on the packaging. “The only logical explanation is that it is no longer there in nature either. Because the catchers don’t go out and say I want this or that species, they catch big-legged frogs of any species,” says Altherr.
In Turkey, too, scientists expect the water frogs that are native to the region to be exterminated in the coming years. According to the study, the Scutari water frog is now endangered in Albania.