UPDATE: Brooklyn gallery cancels frog pregnancy tests after PETA outrage

The African clawed frog.

UPDATE: Board members for Proteus Gowanus gallery have decided to cancel the frog pregnancy tests that were scheduled to be part of a July 6 exhibition by anthropologist Eben Kirksey.

The decision comes after animal rights group PETA issued a statement condemning the tests, which involved using a syringe to inject human urine into a frog. Proteus Gowanus gallery officials initially vowed to feature the exhibition as planned, but Kirksey informed Metro Wednesday evening that board members decided not to include the tests.

“I will still be talking about the history of the test, describing the techniques for performing it, and telling people about how they can help with frog conservation,” Kirksey, who would have been performing the tests, told Metro. “We still hope that a representative of PETA will attend.”

Metro’s original story is below.

A Brooklyn gallery that has invited women to inject frogs with their urine to replicate an antiquated pregnancy test has not been deterred by the outcries of the animal right group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The exhibition, by anthropologist Eben Kirksey, will take place at Proteus Gowanus gallery on July 6, and will include an outdated method of pregnancy testing developed in the 1930s. Doctors used to inject the African clawed frog with the urine of a woman to determine if she were pregnant, based on whether the frog laid hundreds of eggs within about 10 hours. The injection does not cause permanent harm, and frogs can be re-used for the tests up to 60 times according to Kirksey.

However, scientists attribute the African clawed frog with the demise of some frog populations. The species is a carrier of a deadly fungus known as Chytrid. When the African clawed frog was widely exported from South Africa to be used in testing, it spread the fungus to other frogs.

When informed that the opening would feature tests on animals that included injecting them with a syringe, PETA called on the gallery to cancel the event.

“Replicating a cruel, antiquated pregnancy test on frogs to show how the very test’s being replicated may have led to the demise of frog populations is laughable at best,” PETA fumed in a statement released to Metro.

The organization added, “It’s bad enough that frogs who are being injected with urine and infected with a deadly fungus for the sake of so-called ‘art’ will suffer significant pain, but for Eben Kirksey to do so knowing that animal pregnancy tests were long ago replaced with better non-animal methods and that he is potentially risking the lives of every frog in the area shows that he lacks as much compassion as he does common sense.”

Kirksey fired back, explaining that the frogs he will be using for the exhibition have tested negative for the fungus. He also added that the tests do not actually spread or cause the fungus. (It only affects other frogs if infected animals are released into the wild.) Kirksey plans to give away his frogs as pets after the tests are completed. He also told Metro he will try to make the tests as painless as possible for the frogs. 

“The frog pregnancy test is just like getting a TB test, a little bit of liquid will be injected into them,” Kirksey said. “I will do my utmost to ensure that the frogs just feel a tiny pinprick.”

Gallery owner Tammy Pittman not only confirmed that the exhibition will go on as scheduled, but also extended the offer to PETA to see the tests first-hand and attend another upcoming event that invites frog owners to test their pets for the fungus.

“PETA is a venerable institution and we hope that one of their representatives will join us at the Proteus Gowanus gallery,” Pittman said.

While PETA insisted the exhibition may even go so far as to violate New York’s cruelty-to-animals laws, Kirksey said his work is largely about ethics and encouraging people to think about their impact on other species.   

“In the Anthropocene, an era when humans have altered planetary ecologies, we need to rethink our ethics,” Kirksey said. “Is peeing on a stick, and routinely sending plastic trash to a landfill, more ethical than caring for a frog at home and using it as a pregnancy test?”


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