Be Kind to Your Cold-Blooded Friends


December 16, 1991|By ANDREI CODRESCU

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans. -- This Christmas give a frog back his life. Don't dissect one. Millions of frogs, snakes and turtles are ripped open every year in classrooms so that kids can see what's inside. We already know what's inside, so what's the point in looking and looking and killing and killing? Kids can see pictures of what's inside.

At LSU where I work we have a cow with a window in her stomach. You can look in the window while the cow walks around and you can see the guts all coiled up and huge wads of grass being turned into beer or something. Why can't the same be done with one frog or one snake or one turtle instead of having to waste millions of them?

Here in Louisiana we have plenty of frogs and some people eat their legs. We have turtles too and they turn up in soup at every restaurant. Only the snakes escape serious eating and consequently it's like stirring spaghetti sometimes when you're out on the bayou in your row boat. But so what? I'd rather stir reptiles than eat them.

My attachment to frogs goes way back. My first poem was a school assignment to write about an animal including the sounds it makes. I spent one whole night by a swamp behind the road listening to frogs. My poem was made entirely of frog songs and it was so realistic it was eerie. Everybody gave frogs a lot of thought after that. ''The Princess and the Frog,'' would be a very different fairy tale if some high-school teacher'd had the prince dissected.

Fairy tales are full of turtles too, and so are fables and parables. They tell us turtles are wise, patient and tough. How can we, who have yet to achieve such virtues, eat them and carve them up? And snakes, well, they have a bad rep and people feel justified. But I wouldn't be so sure. I've seen them lying in the sun. They just want to be warm.

''Striking Back: The Reptile Defense Fund Newsletter,'' to which I subscribe, advises kids unwilling to dissect to call the Dissection Hotline, 1-800-922-FROG, to learn about their legal rights if they refuse to slash Kermit. They also sell some really nifty T-shirts featuring intertwined reptiles and amphibians. Give those for Christmas, too.

F: Andrei Codrescu teaches at Louisiana State University.

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