We need to Talk about the Frog
It's been four years since I finished pharmacy school. Not a single day has passed without me thinking about this frog.
You see, I killed this frog. I did what I was supposed to do. It wasn’t just me. In 2010, one frog after the other, went down the drain, all murdered by a bunch of naïve pharmacy students.
Okay, proper introduction first.
I am Jaylan Salah, writer, feminist, hopefully a singer and dancer in spare time, not to mention foodie. Sometimes I fancy myself as a wolf.
Everything was fine until I got in pharmacy school.
It was a life-changing experience. College is the epitome character builder for any young fellow. I was no exception. In the beginning, I tried to shed my writer skin. Slowly yet persistently my feminist skin hid behind in shame. By the time I was a senior, I was suffering from a serious case of depression caused by my inability to become who I was supposed to be.
Then came the fucking frogs (exc-use my language) and it looks like they cursed me.
I was a third-year pharmacy student when the teaching assistant announced –rather jubilantly- that during our next physiology section we would be dissecting frogs. Everybody was so damn excited. Frogs, yay! At least we’re not dissecting cockroaches like students in the government schools.
I forgot to mention. I was in a preppy, private college. One where I was practically the only middleclass student as everybody was so damn rich!
Weeks passed and we were all crammed in that spotless physiology laboratory. Everybody was giddy with anticipation.
Let me give you a brief history on pharmacy students in my country.
Most of these students were dying to study in the school of medicine. Medical School is very popular here and it has the reputation of attracting both the impoverished and the elite. Students combat in a cutthroat showdown during their high school years for who would be getting the highest grades and eventually, studying medicine. Most pharmacy students –by nature- are medical school rejects and they become desperate for anything biology as their college years progress. They pine for physiology, anatomy, forensic science and microbiology while struggling with physics, analytical chemistry and pharmaceutics.
When the frogs came, writhing and jumping in huge buckets -Oh yes, they were alive! We were the ones supposedly putting them to sleep- you could only imagine the anticipation these young boys and girls felt.
I was more frantic than anticipating, mainly concerned about my grades and whether I could do the dissection or not. Would I fail miserably at this or would I succeed? I picked a frog. It was a tiny common sand frog. I felt its forelimbs and hind limbs, they were really fragile. I had to perform a weird ass procedure called “pithing” on the frog. Pitning turned out to be pretty painful…for the frog.
I don’t know about you but I cannot imagine myself now doing this procedure. I cannot imagine how heartless I was back then, pinching the needle at the back of the frog’s head, worried only about the 120-minute practical session and whether I would finish in time, or lose grades. We mostly screwed up during our first session and since we didn’t have many opportunities to practice, a colleague suggested that we buy frogs and perform on them at home. It’s our only method of ensuring grades for the final practical exam.
It was only one frog that I bought and performed on at home. When I finished, I believe it was still alive. I had to remove the heart so that the poor thing would eventually die. They had already mentioned in textbooks that pithing is an effective method of euthanasia. The frog apparently didn’t read textbooks. It curled its webbed hands inwards as I isolated whatever the fuck the muscle that I was supposed to isolate and doused it in Ringer’s solution. When I was finally over, I placed the frog in a box and tried to bury it in one of the potted plants in the balcony. When I failed, I threw the box in the dumpster. I might have said a prayer or two. I thanked my friend the frog for aiding me in my studies and went back to my textbooks and research papers.
Needless to say, I graduated with flying colors. I was granted the Bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical studies. I worked as a pharmacist for approximately three years, and then I gave up the whole damn career and embarked on my writing career.
So what’s the morale of this story?
Nothing, really. I mean, I don’t accuse anybody of agreeing to animal vivisections or dissections. It’s a mandatory requirement of college courses worldwide. I am not saying we shouldn’t study pharmacy, too. Damn right we should.
However, if this is not the thing for you, why keep moving? I should’ve left the moment I set my eyes on that bucket, filled with frogs on the row to execution. I should’ve said, “NO” back then. Right now I can’t get this particular frog out of my head. I can’t stop thinking about it. I keep donating to animal welfare charities yet nothing helps ease the guilt and the weight of the pain. I was a huge animal lover and an advocate for animal rights in my teenage years. I restored that part of myself as I was done with pharmacy school. So why did that transitional stage of studying medicines and studying animals come into my life?
I remember reading an article in 2012, where performance artist Jacqueline Traide simulated animal testing and its cruelty. She endured 10 hours of horrifying animal experiments, in her aims to raise awareness to the suffering of animals on the hands of cosmetic industry scientists. This article had haunted me for months before I chose to face myself and acknowledge the burden that I am carrying with me to the grave.
Yes I killed that frog. I take full responsibility for ending his/her life. However, if I could turn back time, I would choose to leave that laboratory and never look back.