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State to ban importing of non-native turtles, frogs for food

Animal welfare advocates won a long sought victory Wednesday when the California Fish and Game Commission approved a ban on imports of non-native turtles and frogs for food markets.

“It’s only taken us 16 years,” said Susan Tellem, co-founder of the nonprofit American Tortoise Rescue.

The Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to order the Department of Fish and Game to stop issuing permits allowing the importation of non-native turtles and frogs for food.

Animal welfare advocates have long argued that food markets, often in Asian communities, kept the live animals in horrible conditions. “The turtles are upside down in the sun, no food, no water,” Tellem said. “They are slaughtered inhumanely.”

Sometimes people cook them live. “They’ll put the turtles in a frying pan, and they die very slowly,” Tellem said.

Tellem said animal-welfare arguments in the past had not convinced the commissioners to ban the importation of what she says are an estimated 2 million bullfrogs and 300,000 red-eared sliders coming into the state each year. This time, the advocates contended there were safety and environmental reasons to stop sales.

“We ended up changing our argument and saying they are non-native animals being released into the wild and they’re killing our native pond turtles,” she said.

People often buy the live animals to save them from death, she said, then release them into ponds and oceans where they are not indigenous and they either die or eat other species. Ravenous bullfrogs, she said, scarf up turtle eggs and baby turtles.

“Our prime motivation was a concern for the impact of such exotic animals on our native wildlife species,” Commissioner Michael Sutton said Wednesday.

The new ban on permits does not apply to imports for the pet trade.

-- Carla Hall

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Comments () | Archives (8)

From where are they being imported? That's an interesting missing detail of the story...

Will this decrease consumption or merely will demand shift to frogs/turtles from inside California? Is this only targeting the Asian community?

Did the lady just admit that she lied so that turtles and frogs cant be imported for food? end justify end mentality is what is crumbling the moral foundation of our society... Wonder if she is okay with billions of microbes that are slowly cooked to death when she fries her tofu steak in her pan! There are bigger fish to fry (pun fully intended) then this!

This is a good move. I hope other states follow suit. Trinity River runs through the Dallas area. There used to be a large population of turtles along the banks. They have all but disappeared. The authorities say it is because poachers have been stealing turtles to sell on the black market to Asian buyers.

This is a major victory for indigenous California wildlife. Every non-native turtle or frog released into our fragile estuarine environments competes directly with local wildlife for food and habitat. The frogs eat a huge number of young turtles, native frogs and even snakes. Over time, the native animals are entirely displaced by invasive species as is happening in the Florida Everglades with illegally released boa constructors and other energetic predators. Here in California a similar situation exists with the non-native striped bass displacing native wild salmon and steelhead trout. Congratulations American Tortoise Rescue!

Just another case of the state taking away rights. Funny that we in this state pride ourselves in freedom yet cannot stop meddling in others lives, whether it be a food source or choice to marry.

If there are animals being inhumanly treated, and I do not dispute that fact, why not go after the perpetrators of that crime. Why must a whole population of people, of which frogs and turtles are a part of their dietary heritage, suffer because this food source does not conform to the norm.

The argument that these food sources are being bought to be saved is a non starter and meant merely to justify these actions. I don't see many people beating down the door of Santa Monica Seafood to save the Lobsters, Clams, Muscles and other live animals. Do we really think there is a gang of do-gooders buying turtles at Asian markets by the thousands just to release them in the wild, or is it more reasonable that a majority of the non-native species are originating from the pet product supply.

A pity compassionate reasons alone weren't enough for them but at least it is something in a positive direction.

Stephen and Ted, the issue is not the targeting of an Asian food source. As a licensed customs broker, I dealt first hand with live frog importers some of whom did not want to go through the legal process of being issued a license. Live frogs are being imported mostly from China where health and sanitary conditions are not monitored by the FDA. To my knowledge veterinary certificates attesting to the health of the animals upon importation were not required nor is there data on the foods/drugs that were introduced into the animals in the country of origin.

On the basis of safety in our food sources, I agree with the action taken. Imported frozen or processed under strict regulations where known contaminents cannot be a vector, yes, live, definitely not.


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