TED Case Studies

Frog Trade

          CASE NUMBER:        238
          CASE MNEMONIC:      FROGS
          CASE NAME:          Trading in Frog Legs


1.        The Issue

     Most of the frog legs served as gastronomic delicacies in
Europe are made from Asian bullfrogs.  The majority of these frog
legs are imported from Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, and most
recently Indonesia.  Indonesia has become the largest supplier of
frog legs to Europe.  The main issue of this case is that the
population density of bullfrogs has fallen drastically as a result
of excessive exploitation.  In satisfying the mainly French and
Belgian appetite for frogs, Indonesia runs the risk of driving some
of its frogs to extinction.  This extinction can have many impacts
on the environment.  Frogs play a vital role in eradicating insect
pests in rice paddies.  The decline in frogs has resulted in an
increase in the use of pesticides leading to an increase in
pollution.  Over the years, this issue has led to the suggestion
that ecological necessity takes precedence over eating pleasures.
2.        Description

     The frog infested swamps of India, Bangladesh and
     Indonesia have become a battle ground between ecologists
     and epicurians, the former who like frogs in the mud and
     the latter who like them with white wine.

     Bullfrogs are hunted for the supposed culinary virtues of
their meaty hind legs. The frogs' legs dished up in European
restaurants are mostly imported from developing countries.  This
trade has become devastating to the species themselves as well as
the environment they help control. Bullfrogs are members of the
true frog family, the Renidae. The bullfrog is well known in
continents throughout the world for food and for predator control. 
They are known to eat mice, small turtles, fish, snakes, birds and
other frogs.  However, the bulk of their diet is insects, spiders,
crayfish and other invertebrates.      

     Reduction in frog population can cause an increase in the
spread of malaria, encephalitis and other diseases which are
carried by insects.  Taking frogs from the wild could have
devastating consequences.  Frogs are insectivorous and each one can
eat more than its weight (about 200 grams) in waterbone pests every
day.  These pests destroy crops and carry diseases.  In some
areas, the spread of a plant disease known locally as "wereng" has
been attributed to increased hunting of frogs.  Fewer than 50 frogs
are needed to keep an acre of a rice paddy field free of insects:
they play a vital role in eradicating insect pests, they prevent
illnesses, and are a natural biological agent. Insect pests
increase precipitously where frogs are vanishing.  "On humane,
hygienic and environmental grounds, it is hopping madness to eat
frogs' legs".  Frog waste is also a good organic fertilizer and
serves as food for snakes.  These snakes in turn eat rats which
live in the rice paddies.

     Frogs used for trade are captured by the bucket and
slaughtered in the most insanitary and inhumane manner.  Usually
they have their legs cut off with a blade while still alive.  The
rest is tossed aside on a bloody twitching pile of limbless torsos
to die slowly.

     Before Indonesia became the main supplier of frogs' legs, the
countries best known for the frog trade were India and Bangladesh. 
Until it outlawed frog exports in 1987, India was France's biggest
supplier.  India banned the trade not only due to the exposure of
the cruelty, but also because the cost of importing pesticides was
greater than the export earnings of frogs' legs.  India's trade
peaked in 1981 when 4,368 tons of frog limbs were sent abroad,
earning about $9.3 million.  When the ecological damage became
apparent, however, the government imposed a 2,800-ton maximum and
ordered the frogs be electrically stunned before execution.  In
1989, Bangladesh imposed a temporary ban which lasted until 1992.
In both countries however, there has been poaching and illegal
trade.  Frogs are one illustration of the issues involved in world
trade.  No international market -- be it frogs, timber, copper,
fish or beef -- has to bear the cost of the environmental damage
incurred in the production or transport of the goods.

     Indonesia has also been urged to place a ban on the frog trade
for the amphibians are now regarded as playing an essential role in
the ecological control of pests.  However, Indonesia's President
Suharto has been urging an expansion of his country's frog legs
industry in order to increase earnings of non-oil exports.   

3.   Related Cases

     REPTILE case
     NILECROC case
     LOBSTER case

     Keyword Clusters

     (1): Trade Product            =    [FOOD]
     (2): Bio-geography            =    Temperate [TEMP]
     (3): Environmental Problem    =    Species Loss [SPLL]

4.        Draft Author:   Ilinca Bazilescu

B.        Legal Clusters

5.        Discourse and Status:   DISagreement and ALLEGE

      A variety of organizations have attempted to urge countries
in banning the import and export of frog legs.  A total ban has
also been suggested on the use of frog legs as an exotic food. 
Organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund,  the Asia-Pacific
People's Environment Network , the German Animal Protection
Society,  and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
have established that the wild frog population in Asia,
specifically Indonesia, is seriously endangered.  In a resolution
which includes rules governing humane slaughtering of animals, the
European Commission has included banning import of frog legs into
the European Community.   So far these efforts have not proved to
be very successful. One reason is that the Indonesian government
has enjoyed the capital intake from this trade as part of a
national drive to boost foreign exchange earnings in non-oil

     In defense for the killing of frogs, Dr.P.V. Dahadrai, who
directs the fisheries section of India's Agriculture Ministry, said
"frog cutting is restricted to two edible breeds and that the 23
other varieties of frogs and toxic toads are enough to keep the
insect population in check.

6.        Forum and Scope:   CITES and MULTIlateral

      The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora aims to help save species endangered by
international trade and limit demand by making imports illegal in
consumer countries.  In 1992, Germany proposed to limit trade in
frogs by requiring export permits.  It was suggested for several
frog species to be added to the CITES.  However there was
insufficient data to justify a CITES listing of the frogs on its
Appendix II.  To be included in CITES, both the biological status
and the extent to which the species is threatened by trade must be
taken into account. In this case, it is almost impossible to
identify which frog species' packed and frozen legs belong to
which. Because of difficulties in identifying differences between
protected frog species and those not protected, an illegal trade in
Asian bullfrogs is occurring.  In order to resolve this problem, a
costly biochemical analysis would be needed.  

7.        Decision Breadth:   117 (CITES signatories)

8.        Legal Standing:   Non-Governmental Organization [NGO]

     Organizations are trying to impose bans on the frog trade in
Indonesia.  In the past, Friends of the Earth helped persuade the
Bangladeshi government that frog trade was economic and
environmental suicide.  As a result, a temporary export ban was
imposed in 1989 and extended until 1992.  This had immediate
effects such as a 40% decline in pesticide imports and an increase
in frog population.

C.        GEOGRAPHIC Clusters

9.        Geographic Locations

     a.   Geographic Domain   :    ASIA 
     b.   Geographic Site     :    East Asia  [EASIA]
     c.   Geographic Impact   :    Western Europe [WEUR]

10.       Sub-National Factors:   NO

11.       Type of Habitat:  TROPical

D.        TRADE Clusters

12.       Type of Measure:   Import Ban [IMBAN]

     The European Commission has included a ban on imports of frogs
in a resolution.  On December 6, 1991, the Commission of the
European Communities issued a Council Regulation "laying down
provisions with regard to possession of and trade in specimens of
species of wild fauna and flora".  Annex B lists the different
amphibian species which are endangered.  Rana Catesbeina (bullfrog)
can be found in Annex B.  This annex "contains species listed in
CITES Appendix II and other species which are subject to trade
levels that might not be compatible with their survival or the
survival of populations of them".  
 Unfortunately, illegal trade and poaching often overrides
regulations. Policing is difficult, if not impossible, and as long
as there is a demand in the West there will be poaching and the
temptation of quick profit.    

13.       Direct vs. Indirect Impacts:   DIRect

14.       Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact

     a.   Directly Related    :    YES  FROGS
     b.   Indirectly Related  :    NO
     c.   Not Related:        :    NO
     d.   Process Related     :    YES  Species Loss [SPLL]

15.       Trade Product Identification: FOOD

16.       Economic Data

     Frog trade has become an important business for some Asian
countries. The European Community imported 6,202 tonnes of frogs'
legs in 1990.  Belgium and Luxembourg consumed 44% of the imports
while 42% went to France.  More than 80 % of the imports come from
Indonesia.  This majority of Indonesian frogs is due to the fact
that India and Bangladesh (the primary exporters until 1989) have
banned the trade because of damage by pests which frogs used to
eat.  The French import thousands of tons from Indonesia because
they have eaten so many that most of their own species are
protected.  To compensate for the high volume of frog exports,
Indonesia in turn imports more than $89 million in pesticides.  In
1989, it was importing an extra 25% of pesticides a year to cope
with its frog loss.  Government figures showed it was spending $30
million a year to earn $10 million.  While large farmers could buy
pesticides cheaply in bulk, the traditional smallholders were
paying about $5 in pesticides for every $2 they earned from
catching 100 frogs.

17.       Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness:  MEDium

18.       Industry Sector:    FOOD

19.       Exporter and Importer:   INDONESIA and MANY

E.        ENVIRONMENT Clusters

20.       Environmental Problem Type:   Species Loss Land [SPLL]

21.       Name, Type, and Diversity of Species

     Name:          Rana Catesbeina
     Type:          Animal\Metozoa\Deuteros\Chordata\
     Diveristy:     48 frog species per
                    10,000 square kilometers

22.       Resource Impact and Effect:   MEDium and PRODuct

23.       Urgency and Lifetime:    MEDium and 10's of years

     Bullfrogs, like many amphibians, grow continually throughout
their lives.  The oldest and largest bullfrogs are almost
invariably females, since males, because of their more active
lifestyle, are exposed to predation much more than adult females
and don't live as long.

24.       Substitutes:   Conservation [CONSV]

F.        OTHER Factors

25.       Culture:  YES

     In Indonesia, a religious aspect exists concerning the frog
business.  Some Moslems say that according to Islamic teaching,
frogs are "haram" or unclean, and not to be eaten. This issue was
debated among the Moslem population and it was decided that Moslems
could breed frogs but could not eat them.

26.       Trans-Border:  NO

27.       Rights:   YES

28.       Relevant Literature

Barfield, Seymour "Indonesia's Frog Legs" Journal of
     Environmental Health (June 1986).

Cook, Francis R. Introduction to Canadian Amphibians and
     Reptiles. National  Museums of Canada, 1984.

Cooke, Kieran. "When Eating Frogs' Legs Seems in Poor Taste" 
     Financial Times  (August 1985).

Clift, Jeremy. "Slaughter of Frogs Sparks Ecology Protests" 
     Reuters North European  Service (October 1985).

Daily Mail "Frogs Pay the Price of Greed" Daily Mail (April 

Harker, Joseph. "A Deadly Short Hop to Disease" The Guardian 
     (February 1993).

Kelliher, Adam. "India Decides Frogs have Value Beyond their 
     Legs" Proprietary to  the United Press International (May
Morovsky, N. "The CITES conservation circus" Nature (February 

Patel, Tara "French May Eat Indonesia out of Frog Legs"  New 
     Scientist (April 1993).  

Reuters North European Service "Environmentalists call for Frog-
     Eating Ban" Reuters  North European Service (January 1985).

Tyning, Thomas F. Amphibians and Reptiles. Little, Brown and 
     Company, (1990). 

Vidal, John "Asian Frog Export Short Hop to Ruin" The Ottowa 
     Citizen (July 1994).

Wachtel, Paul "In a Stew over Frog Legs" International Wildlife
(June 1985). 

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