***Warning: this post contains images that might be upsetting to some readers.***
Chances are you’re familiar with, or have at least heard about, the unregulated and horrifically cruel practice of dog meat farming in South Korea—the only country that actively breeds dogs for food. No effective policies exist regulating the farming or slaughtering of meat dogs, and so there are no rules governing their treatment or consumption.
The Korean government has confirmed that dog meat is illegal, and in an attempt to sum up the lack of regulations around the issue, the Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) explain:
“It is illegal to produce and consume dog meat but it is not against the law.”
This confusing statement is a direct result of the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAF) listing dogs as “livestock,” but not considering them livestock in regards to food processing. Effectively, it is illegal to farm dogs for food, yet there are no laws in place to enforce it.
From the time the Summer Olympics were held in Seoul, Korea in 1988, the plight of these dogs’ found a solid place in the spotlight. From the time they’re born, they are separated from their mothers too early and raised in cages off the ground, with no food, water, or protection from the elements, and endure torturous methods of slaughter. In an instant, the entire world knew every facet of this horrible truth.
One of many organizations that is making a difference for these dogs is the Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA). The group dedicates themselves solely to the eradication of the dog meat trade. In combination with Animals Asia, Change for Animals Foundation, Soi Dog, and Humane Society International (HSI), they are trying to help dog farmers convert to agricultural farming.
So far, HSI has successfully helped a number of farmers in several countries exit the trade. One such farmer, Lee Tae-hyun, had been running his dog farm for 20 years. With interest waning and help both financially and physically from the Humane Society, he had no qualms leaving the business and appeasing his disgruntled neighbors.
When his 57 dogs were flown to the United States for adoption, Lee’s mother told The Wall Street Journal that she “pray[s] they’ll live well in the U.S.” The family now farms peppers out of greenhouses HSI helped them acquire.
The Los Angeles Times tells us of another instance not long ago in which the San Diego Humane Society took action overseas. They transported 29 dogs from a South Korean meat farm to San Diego, in addition to more than 100 others before them. The group also compensated and supported farmers as they transitioned to crop farming.
The HSI has also pulled over 100 Mastiffs, Spaniel mixes, and Chihuahuas from miserable conditions, sending them to San Francisco to find forever homes. Just as in the other cases, the organization convinced the owner to close the farm while helping him set up a more humane way to make a living.
But the story isn’t over once these pups are rescued.
The Stacey Graham, President of the Humane Society of Southwest Washington said:
“Everything’s new to them; they don’t know what rocks are, or trees or grass. They haven’t been around people so their biggest challenge and our biggest challenge is helping them figure out what this new world is all about.”
Her organization currently has over 50 former meat farm dogs who are up for adoption. However, due to their background, they need to go to special homes that will be able to handle their needs.
The work of United States Humane Society and many others is not just creating happy endings for hundreds of dogs once destined for meals—they’re causing many Korean citizens to turn up their noses at the idea of eating dog meat. As negative associations rise and more and more generations opt out of this culinary market, scrutiny surrounding the trade heightens from all sides. Opposed Korean individuals are praising those who surrender their dogs, noting one farmer in particular who “declared his intention to transition to blueberry farming.”
Now with the 2018 Winter Olympics set to take place in Seoul once again, rescue organizations are reaching out to more farmers with the same goal in mind.
People want these dogs safe in homes and far from street markets throughout Eastern Asia—out of metal cages packed tight and always with the availability of food, water, and vet care. The more the world learns about the dog meat farm industry, the more people will be advocating for participating countries to abandon these “political loopholes” once and for all.