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Tag: farms

A little reminder from Jinjja and me

A friend came across this ABC News video from a year and a half ago, depicting more than 30 dogs rescued from a meat farm in Korea on their way to shelters in North Carolina to be put up for adoption.

As she guessed, the second dog to last dog shown in the video, is — though Jindos can look pretty similar — the one that now belongs to me, I think.

jindolJinjja is his name.

He has come a long way since this news footage (which I’d never seen) was shot — turning from a virtually wild dog scared of everything to a trusting and loyal companion.

I thought, with the 2018 Winter Olympics concluding, with the controversial dog meat trade having diverted only a little focus from the games, this would be a good time to remember that a small minority of Koreans eat dog.

Despite government efforts to suspend or at least better hide the practice, dog meat was still being served in restaurants in PyeongChang, and numerous dog farms are located within just miles of Olympic venues.

With all those inspiring moments of athletic achievement we watched, all those examples of humans trying to be their best, it was easy to ignore that harsh reality — that one to two million farm dogs are butchered each year in South Korea.

Some news media used the Olympics as an opportunity to remind us of it. Others, like NBC, barely touched on it — apparently not wanting to turns its spotlight from those inspiring moments of athletic achievement. Instead, it presented South Korea’s best side, and that best side is a truly great side.

But South Korea has a worst side, too, and yes, we just reminded you of it.

Some would say eating dog meat is part of Korean culture, and thus deserves to be free from criticism, but it doesn’t — not anymore than the tradition of slavery in America deserves to be excused, forgotten or forgiven.

gus-kenworthy-matt-wilkas-dogBefore the Olympics was a good time to let South Korea know, as many did, what the rest of the world thinks about the practice. During the Olympics was a good time too, and some Olympians even did.

In addition to the other Olympians who were planning to help a Korean farm dog get to the U.S., one, Gus Kenworthy, a member of the US. Olympic ski team, also took action.

Kenworthy, who brought home a rescue dog after the Sochi Olympics, visited a dog farm near PyeongChang in the process of being closed by Humane Society International and left with a puppy named Beemo, according to PEOPLE magazine.

He didn’t single-handedly rescue 90 dogs from the farm, as a Fox News headline shouted: “US Olympian Gus Gus Kenworthy rescues 90 dogs from Korean dog meat farm.” But he did assist Humane Society International in gathering up the dogs and arranged to adopt one of them.

Hyped as reports like that might be, photo ops that they might be, its good so see some attention on the issue.

If it’s one you feel strongly about, express that somehow. Comment here, or elsewhere, or sign a petition. Contribute to Humane Society International’s program that cuts deals with the dog farmers to close their farms, and brings the dogs to the U.S. and Canada for adoption. Provide a home to one of those who end up here.

You won’t get a gold medal for it. But you might keep one dog from ending up on a dinner plate or in a soup bowl. And for that you can feel proud.

(Bottom photo: Gus Kenworthy /Instagram)

HSI shutting down 200-dog farm in Korea

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Another massive rescue of Korean farm dogs is underway.

Activists on Tuesday freed 10 more dogs from a 200-dog farm in Wonju, 55 miles outside of Seoul, Reuters reported.

Dogs on such farms are raised to be slaughtered for their meat.

reuters1Humane Society International estimates it will take weeks for all the dogs on the farm to be removed, after which they will be transported to the U.S. for adoption at local animal shelters.

The farm, once it closes, will become the sixth shut down by local advocates and activists from HSI, who negotiate with dog farmers and assist them in getting started in different occupations.

HSI estimates there are 17,000 dog-meat farms in the country.

The removal of the dogs follows six months of negotiations, medical examinations and vaccinations. Because airline flights can only carry a limited number of dogs a day, it will take a couple of weeks for HSI to rescue all 200 of the dogs at the farm.

You can see a Reuters slideshow of the operation here.

reutersThe owner of this farm cited his poor health as the reason he was getting out of the business.

HSI officials expected the dogs will be quickly adopted once they arrive at shelters in the U.S.

“As soon as they’re ready for adoption, we find that there are line-ups of people – literally people would line up at shelters – in the U.S. to adopt these dogs because people are so engaged by their sad and compelling stories,” said Andrew Plumbly, another campaign manager for the HSI.

Plumbly said hygiene at the dog farm was “non-existent,” and that dogs spent most of their lives outside in rusty cages.

A minority of Koreans consume dog, and the consumption of dog meat is declining.

Humane Society International hopes bringing more attention to the issue will lead the government ban the breeding of meat dogs in South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Olympics are being held.

(You can read more about Korean farm dogs, including mine, here.)

(Photos: Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Dog butchering to cease at Moran Market

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In what we hope is a death knell for the dog meat trade in South Korea, the killing and butchering of dogs has been banned in the country’s most infamous dog-meat market.

Sellers of dog meat in Seongnam’s Moran Market will shut down their dog slaughtering and butchering operations, starting within a week, the Korea Herald reported.

All cages and equipment used in the process must be permanently removed by the end of May.

The decision was announced Tuesday by Seongnam City Government and the vendors’ association of Moran Market, which represents the market’s 22 dog meat dealers, as well as those who sell vegetables and other products.

Quoting Gandhi, Seongnam mayor Lee Jae-myung, said, “Seongnam City will take the initiative to transform South Korea’s image since ‘the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.'”

Moran Market is South Korea’s top dog meat trade center. Dogs are kept packed in cages before being sold, killed and butchered to order in the open air market — about 80,000 of them a year, it is estimated.

The dogs generally come from dog farms, about 17,000 of which are located in South Korea.

According to the Humane Society International, about 2 million dogs are raised for their meat each year in South Korea.

No law specifically prohibits the farming of dogs for consumption as food.

“This is a hugely consequential development because of the sheer numbers of animals involved,” Humane Society of the United States President and CEO Wayne Pacelle wrote on his blog, A Humane Nation.

“The closing of the Moran dog meat market affirms the soundness of our model of shutting down the farms by giving the farmers an alternative form of employment,” Pacelle wrote. “With the Winter Olympics planned for South Korea for 2018, this is a key leverage point for the global community… This proud and successful country can shed this industry and help transition farmers to other lucrative and more humane businesses.”

The Herald reports that the city of Seongnam will pick up the tab for market merchants to retool their shops for new kinds of businesses.

That’s similar to the approach Humane Society International is using to persuade dog farmers to forfeit their dogs and go into a new line of work.

dsc05635-2Since 2014, Humane Society International has transported 540 dogs rescued that way — my dog Jinjja among them — to the U.S. and Canada as part of an ongoing effort to end the dog meat trade in South Korea.

Jinjja came to me through the Watauga Humane Society. He was one of 31 Korean farm dogs HSI transported to the U.S. and sent to local humane societies in North Carolina.

I visited him there to write about the Korean dogs for this website, and ended up adopting him, mainly because we hit it off, but probably also because of the images that lingered (in my brain, and the photos I took) from my own visit, six years ago, to Moran Market.

Seongnam City is to be commended for doing what much of South Korea hasn’t been able to accomplish. Here’s hoping the new rule is enforced, that it spreads throughout the country, and that by the time the 2018 Olympics open in Seoul, the practice is not just hidden, but over.

(Photos: At top, a scene from Moran Market, by John Woestendiek; lower, my Korean farm dog, Jinjja, and me, by Ted Woestendiek)

14 more Korean farm dogs arrive in U.S.

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Fourteen more farm dogs from South Korea have arrived in the U.S. and are bound for the Richmond SPCA for eventual adoption.

The dogs arrived Friday at Dulles International Airport after being rescued from a dog meat farm in Jeonju, where they would have faced being slaughtered and butchered after living short and miserable lives.

Since 2014, Humane Society International has transported 540 dogs — my Jinjja among them — to the U.S. and Canada as part of an ongoing effort to end the dog meat trade in South Korea.

Working with local animal activists, HSI attempts to persuade the operators of dog farms to relinquish their dogs, close down their business and find a new line of work, sometimes assisting them in the latter.

richmond2The dogs who arrived Friday were rescued from a meat farm in Jeonju — likely the same one my new dog was in.

While dog meat farms are legal in South Korea, the latest arrivals — like the 31 that arrived at shelters across North Carolina in October — came from a farm that Korean officials found to be operating illegally (on someone else’s property) and ordered to close.

The latest 14 were sheltered, vaccinated and quarantined in Daegu and Isla before being flown to San Francisco and, eventually, Dulles, according to the Richmond SPCA.

Robin Starr, CEO of the Richmond SPCA, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that some of the dogs will be ready for adoption in about a week.

“When we save the lives of animals that were really facing not only short lives of utter misery but then a terrible death, nothing could be more central to the accomplishment of that,” she said.

(Photos: At top Jessica Bristow carries Mokpo; lower, another Korean dog stretches his legs after arriving in Richmond; by Joe Mahoney / Times-Dispatch)

South Korean dog farmer agrees to raise dog meat no more — and switch to blueberries

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A South Korean dog farmer has signed a pact with an animal welfare organization, agreeing to stop raising dogs for meat and, in exchange for some financial assistance, devote his acreage instead to growing blueberries.

The agreement included his relinquishing 23 dogs from the farm, which Humane Society International have transported to Washington for future adoption.

While the organization has been working to sway dog farmers to turn to other crops, “This is the first farm that we were able to negotiate with and make an agreement to shut the doors for good,” said Kelly O’Meara, of HSI.

She says her group met with the farmer, and he has pledged that from now on he will focus on growing blueberries.

HSI, the international affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, is working to reduce the dog meat trade in Asia, including South Korea, where dogs are farmed for the industry. HSI hopes to work with more South Korean dog meat farmers to help them transition out of the business.

Dogs kept on meat farms are kept outdoors in crowded cages. “They live there their entire lives. They never get out of the cage; they never are handled by people,” O’Meara said.

Of the 23 dogs that were rescued from the farm, about half arrived Monday night in Alexandria.WTOP reported. The rest arrived at the shelter on Tuesday.

“We’ve given them all new beds and comfy toys and all those things they’ve probably never had before,” said Megan Webb, executive director of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.

Five other area shelters have agreed to help house the dogs until they find find forever homes: the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, the City of Manassas Animal Control and Adoption Shelter, the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, Loudoun County Animal Services and the Washington Animal Rescue League.

HSI’s O’Meara said about one to two million dogs are consumed in South Korea a year, most of which are raised on such farms.

(Photo: Humane Society International)

The Grapes of George (and other crops)

I’m not sure who’s behind it, but in the flatlands of eastern Washington — before the westbound traveler gets to the far more magnificent side of the state — someone has decided to label the crops.

“Crop names in fence lines next 14 miles,” reads a sign on Interstate 90, somewhere west of Moses Lake and east of a town named George.

I like this idea. For one thing, it turns a fairly boring drive into a learning experience. For another, possibly, it makes people a little more aware of/involved in the place they’re at — as opposed to the text they’re sending, the video game they’re playing, or the cell phone on which they’re blabbing.

It’s kind of like a picture book for kids: Here is the field corn, here is the alfalfa. You don’t even have to turn the page, just your head. On your left, potatoes; on your right, peppermint. Here is a field of … wheat. Here is a field of … grapes (wrathless variety, it appeared). Here is some Timothy. Timothy? (It’s a kind of hay.)

For 14 miles, on both sides of the highway, I got a lesson in agriculture — thanks to, I’d guess, the state or some agricultural commission. I wanted to learn more about crops, including why every state seems to package its hay differently. But the lesson came to an end; and as I progressed west, instead of crop signs, the only ones I saw in the fence lines — not counting those of politicians — said “For Sale.”

It struck me as a good idea, though, all this labeling and identifying — one that, if carried to extremes, could both create jobs and lead to a more informed public.

In addition to crop identifiers, why not farm animal identifiers: Sheep, goats, cows, llamas? Tree identifiers that would help us differentiate between our birch and our aspen? Factory identifiers that tell us what’s being made inside that big building? A much needed explanation of what silos (a) hold and (b) are for? The American public would get a better understanding of the importance of farming, and everything else we take for granted.

(Label this idea satire, but only kind of.)

Of course we don’t want drivers reading signs so much that they neglect their driving, but it’s nice to see signs that inform, instead of those that merely advertise, or give harsh orders — as if we were dogs or something: “No this … No that … Stay in lane … Right lane must exit … ”

I’m tired, too, of the signs that scare us: Dangerous Crosswinds Ahead, Watch for Ice, High Accident Area, Gas: $3.15.

We tend to readily identify dangers, we profusely post rules, we slap advertising everywhere — so why not label the run of the mill good stuff, like cows and creeks, steaming bowls of oatmeal and doers of good deeds?

My label-everything-on-earth plan could help the economy. Think of all the jobs. Think of the stimulus. We would need more signmakers, more sign putter-uppers, more sign repairers, more sign changers — for when the crops are rotated, or the landscape changes.

Maybe knowing what’s what would help us appreciate our Earth a little more, teach us to better “live in the moment.” Or maybe not. In any event, here’s the one I want to see:

A sign that the economy is improving.

Chasing spuds in the far north of Maine

Given that there’s not all that much else to do in Aroostook County, Maine, Ace and I followed the potatoes.

For it was potatoes, mainly, that brought John Steinbeck and his poodle Charley 50 years ago to the state’s largest and northernmost county — a place he’d never been. Neither had I, and though we’re not precisely following the path Steinbeck took for “Travels With Charley,” this piece of it seemed worth duplicating.

“I wanted to go to the rooftree of Maine to start my trip before turning west. It seemed to give the journey a design, and everything in the world must have a design or the human mind rejects it,” Steinbeck wrote. “… Maine was my design, potatoes my purpose.”

Of particular interest to the author of “The Grapes of Wrath” were the migrant French Canadian workers who crossed the border in harvest season to pick up potatoes, after they were unearthed by machinery, and place them in baskets.

Poverty, farmworkers and migration were recurrent theme’s in Steinbeck’s vast body of work, so it’s not surprising that, for what would turn out to be his last book, he revisited them.

Steinbeck parked his camper, Rocinante, on the side of a lake, just down from a migrant camp. Smelling their soup from 100 yards away, he dispatched Charley to serve as his ambassador. He’d let the poodle go, then follow, retrieving him, apologizing for the nuisance. A conversation about the dog would inevitably ensue, leading to conversation about other things.

At this particular juncture, Steinbeck had the added advantage of his dog being French. Charley was born in Bercy, outside Paris. He invited the farmworkers to come see his camper after dinner, which six of them did. They drank beer, then brandy, served in pill bottles, a jelly glass, coffee cups and a shaving mug. They had more brandy, and then more brandy.

Rocinante, Steinbeck wrote, “took on a glow it never quite lost.”

I didn’t get a glow on in Madawaska. Seeking food, I stopped in Jerry T’s Chug-a-Mug, but they weren’t serving any. The only place that was, Jeff’s Pizza and Subs, about ten doors down, was closing in 10 minutes. I walked down, placed an order, then finished off my mug at Jerry’s. The bartender wasn’t familiar with John Steinbeck. Neither was the operator of my motel. Neither was the receptionist at Naturally Potatoes, a processing plant I stopped at after following a loaded potato truck down the highway to see where it was going.

Finding no Steinbeck afficianados, no glow, and no French Canadian farmworkers, I settled for some quality time back in the motel room with my burger.

And a side of mashed potatoes.

The harvesting of potatoes is all done by machinery now — human hands rarely enter the picture. Machines unearth the potatoes, machines scoop them out of the dirt, sending them up conveyor belts that drop them into trucks that hit the highway and dump them at processing plants.

Until around 1960, potatoes were dug out of the ground with a mechanical digger, then picked up by hand, put into baskets, then dumped into barrels. The barrels were lifted onto a flatbed truck and hauled to storage or to the processing. Farmworkers were paid by how many they picked up.

Today, migrant farmworkers have little place in the potato farming industry. They are used to harvest two of the state’s other top crops — broccoli and blueberries. But harvesting the hearty spud, thick skinned and mostly bruise-proof, is a job that clunky machines have taken over.

Maine once led the nation in potato production, but by 1994 it had fallen to eighth on the list of top potato states.

We left Madawaska the next morning amid a thick fog the sun was in the process of burning off, following Highway 1 to its end, then heading south on Highway 11 — destination Bangor, Maine.

We passed through rolling hills, more small towns, and more potato farms, whose harvest goes on to be powdered and chowedered, mashed and hashed, chipped and french-fried.

We may not be eating our vegetables, but we were seeing plenty of them, including this sea of broccoli. Was it crying out for cheese sauce, or was that just my imagination?

We passed by lumber mills, where the smell of sap wafted into the car, mom and pop motels, more farmland, and sheds both collapsed and collapsing.

Having seen both coastal Maine and inland Maine, both recreational Maine and working Maine, both comfy Maine and struggling Maine, we decided — behind schedule as we are — to rest up in Bangor before heading to the next state west: New Hampshire … or is it Vermont?

(Black and white photo, circa 1930, from the Maine Historical Society)

(Other photos by John Woestendiek)