A day to protest dog-eating in South Korea
Then their fur is boiled, torn or torched off so they can be chopped up, sold and eaten.
It remains a thriving, and often shady, business — even though only a minority of South Koreans eat dog, and even though those numbers are decreasing.
Recent years have seen a rise in pet keeping in South Korea, and along with it a higher degree of respect afforded to dogs, especially those of the purebred variety.
At the same time, South Korea’s fledgling animal welfare movement is becoming stronger and more active, and banning the eating of dog is at the top of its agenda.
Still, there are those, inside South Korea and out, who would like to see a total and immediate end to dog meat consumption.
Among them is In Defense of Animals (IDA), an organization that has been holding a global day of protest against the practice for the past seven years.
This year, IDA has joined forces with two South Korean animal welfare groups – Coexistence for Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) and Korean Animal Rights Advocates (KARA), to protest dog meat consumption.
The 7th annual International Day of Action for South Korean Dogs and Cats is tomorrow — Tuesday, August 16 — and is timed to coincide with what is the peak period of dog consumption in South Korea, the hottest summer months. Many of those who market and consume canine meat maintain it increases vitality, male sexual prowess and general health — all myths, according to IDA.
At the events, held simultaneously in dozens of cities around the world, activists pass out leaflets and hold signs, often outside South Korean Embassies and Consulates.
You can find a full list of the day’s events in America and other countries here.
I met some of South Korea’s animal activists, and visited an outdoor dog market during a trip to Seoul in 2009 to research my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
South Korea was the first country to clone a dog — a feat some say was made possible by the easy access to dogs from dog farms. Both before and after the birth of Snuppy, the first canine clone, scientists used farm dogs both for their eggs and as surrogates in their attempts to clone the species.
Given that, I felt the need to visit Moran Market, an open air bazaar outside Seoul where cages line the street for a full city block, and dogs can be purchased in part or in whole, live or dead, cooked or raw, for as little as $100.
Customers commonly choose a live dog from a cage, at which point the dog is pulled out with a noose attached to a stick, dragged into a nearby room and given a fatal electrical shock with what resembles a cattle prod. It is thrown into a steel vat of boiling water to soften the meat and make its fur easier to remove. From there it is tumbled in a dryer that removes most of the fur. A torch is used to burn off any that remains, and the dog is then butchered to order while you wait. About 25 percent of South Korea’s dog meat is sold through Moran Market.
On my visit to the market, workers waved me down. They offered me a seat by the fire, a cup of tea and a cigarette. One grabbed a long stick, poked it through the bars in the cage and jabbed several dogs to show me how lively they were. The asking price was about $150, though it eventually dropped to $100.
While a few purebreds were in the mix, almost all were mutts. Most dog meat in Korea comes from mixed breeds that, while similar to the native Jindo breed in appearance, are mongrels, and are often referred to simply as “yellow dogs.” Most of them have been raised on farms, spending most of their lives in cages, or on three-foot chains.
Seeing I was uninterested in buying an entire live dog, the merchants offered me half of one – boiled and de-furred, but with its head, tail and paws still intact.
While there is disagreement over how far back dog eating in Korea goes, long stretches of poverty and war made it more popular, and necessary. While many never took up the practice, or have abandoned it, an estimated 500 to 600 restaurants in Seoul alone serve dog, in various forms.
Animal activists told me that the bulk of market dogs come from farms, but that stolen and stray pets often end up in the mix, and even dogs sold by unethical animal shelters.
“There are dogs picked up as strays off the streets and dogs that were being used to breed pets but have gotten old and useless,” said Soyoun Park, president of CARE.
“The way you can distinguish if it’s a farm dog or a homeless dog is that those dogs that are raised at the farm won’t look at a human directly. They don’t want eye contact. Those who are not afraid about looking a human in the eye are usually dogs that have been raised in someone’s house.”
Dog was removed from the menus of many restaurants during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and in 1991, South Korea passed its first animal protection law, ostensibly forbidding the sale and consumption of dog meat.
But the government has done little to enforce it — nearly 6,500 stores in the country still sell dog meat, according to the IDA.
As some some activists in Seoul told me, pressure from outside the country, up to now, seems to have had little effect on decreasing dog meat consumption in South Korea. Any true and lasting change, they believe, will likely have to come from within.
And as one pointed out, Americans — with all our righteous indignation — live in a country where the number of dogs euthanized at shelters every year is just about the same as the number consumed in Korea.
When it comes to the well-being of dogs as a species, be they American or Korean, there is work to be done. I’m just glad there are people — in both countries — doing it.
(Photos by John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 15th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal rights, animal welfare, cloning, coexistence for animal rights on earth, dog farms, dog inc., dog meat, eating dog, embassies, events, farm dogs, ida, in defense of animals, international day of action, korean animal rights advocates, laws, market, moran market, photos, pressure, protest, seoul, south korea