A TikTok video showing a teenager opening up a package containing a live frog on March 23 has sparked controversy online. Animal rights advocates are worried that pets might be harmed while being shipped. This practice, while regulated to reduce the risk of harm to the animal, reflects society’s tendency to “commodify” animals, says animal rights charity Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis.
A video showing a teenage girl opening up a package sealed with scotch tape and removing a little box containing a tiny yellow frog was posted on TikTok on March 23, 2021. It has since garnered 347,800 views:
The girl unwraps the package and puts the frog in a small terrarium that she says she made herself.
Several people wrote in the comments section that they were shocked to see a live frog delivered in a package as if it were clothes or a pair of shoes. Others said the girl didn’t seem to know anything about the animal she had just adopted.
In another video, posted the next day, the teenager explains that she wasn’t able to pick up the animal at the shop because it was too far away. She promises to order a terrarium and a warming mat to make the animal as comfortable as possible.
Though the practice may seem surprising, shipping animals in packages isn’t rare. On TikTok, lots of teenagers have posted videos showing themselves opening up boxes containing amphibians, fish or insects.
This teenager in the UK posted a video to TikTok on December 3, 2020 showing a fish he ordered on Ebay that was shipped to him in a package.
This video, filmed in Portugal and published on TikTok on March 28 shows someone opening a package containing a lizard.
The French animal protection charity Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis has spoken out against this practice, even though it is legal in France. The charity says this trend demonstrates society’s tendency to commodify animals.
"When the vendor is conscientious, there is no problem with shipping an animal. But, ethically speaking, it isn’t ideal”
Stéphane Rosselle breeds amphibians and reptiles at the Reptilis, the breeding centre that shipped the frog in the TikTok video that sparked a furor. He told the FRANCE 24 Observers team that his company takes care to make sure that the animals are shipped as comfortably as possible:
We don’t send any animals through the postal service, we have to use a specialised service. The package leaves our offices at night and is delivered to our customers the next morning.
The cardboard box contains a polystyrene box. Inside that, the animal is kept in a specialised box with a special mat that stays wet so the animal stays hydrated. The box also contains little warmers to make sure the animal stays warm enough. We also include a tip sheet with lots of instructions on how to take care of the animal.
We follow the same procedure when we ship an animal to a pet store.
In 20 years of experience, I can count on one hand the number of times that an animal has had problems because of the shipping. Our team is made up of people who are passionate about these creatures. If it was dangerous for the animal, I’d be the first person to say we shouldn’t do it.
Hemminki Johan, a herpetologist (a person who specialises in the study of reptiles and amphibians) at the Regional Agency for Biodiversity in Île-de-France, says transporting live animals isn’t without risk:
Amphibians need their environment to be moist because their skin is very fragile and covered with a kind of mucus that always needs to be kept moist. As for reptiles, transporting them in a box all day could cause bumps that could cause death. They are also extremely sensitive to the cold.
When everything is done well, when the vendor is conscientious, transportation isn’t life-threatening to an animal. However, ethically speaking, it isn’t ideal. Being trapped for hours in a box puts the animal under an enormous amount of stress. Let’s just say he isn’t going to have his best day.
In this video posted on March 24, you can hear the teenager saying that the frog was very anxious the day he arrived. She was trying to hold the trembling animal in her hand.
However, animals are frequently shipped within the domestic animal industry.
Some animals are imported from abroad, while others are transported from breeding centres to pet stores.
Lucas Flenghi is a veterinarian in the New Pets (NAC or Nouveaux Animaux de Compagnie) department at the Cordeliers veterinary clinic in Meaux (77). He says that the practice of selling pets online often means that the new owners haven’t been well-instructed in how to care for their pets:
What’s shocking is that you can buy a living being like a pair of socks. If you buy an animal from a pet store, then the vendor can explain how to take care of the animal and make sure the person is ready to care for it. They are living beings who have particular needs. It’s not very responsible to buy a pet without knowing how to care for it.