PETA enters jubilee debate

January 30, 2003 11:00 pm

PETA enters jubilee debate

By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

Another animal rights group has leapt into the off-again-on-again battle with the Calaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a 750,000-member international animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Va., sent a letter dated Jan. 7 to Calaveras County Fair Manager Buck King expressing its worries about the frog jump and a desire to see it stopped.

The note is the latest challenge to the annual event, where frog jockeys yell, pound the ground and otherwise startle competing frogs — without touching them — to encourage them to jump.

The competition began in 1928 to celebrate the paving of Angels Camp's streets and was inspired by Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," a yarn in which a frog is loaded with buckshot to keep it grounded.

The frog contest made headlines last summer, when a former Miss Calaveras runner-up deemed the jubilee cruel and inhumane.

Calaveras native Larisa Bryski at the time worked for the Animal Protection Institute in Sacramento, an 80,000-member animal protection group. She has since left the institute for another job but has made the jubilee a personal cause.

After the brouhaha surrounding Bryski's announcement died down, the state Department of Fish and Game threw a new wrinkle into the spat: While it was legal to remove frogs from streams for jumping contests, it was illegal to put them back.

Where should they go, then?

None of the players — Bryski, PETA, fair organizers, contest participants or Fish and Game — wanted to see Kermit on the barbecue.

In a decision reached earlier this month, Dennis DeAnda, game warden for California Fish and Game, said the agency found a code that allows frog jump contestants and officials to put the animals back where they found them.

"The department will be providing an official letter to the county regarding that," DeAnda said. "Hopefully it will be done relatively quickly."