March 21, 2017
Animal rescuers thought they’d seen it all; then entered a dog meat farm in South Korea where 55 dogs were kept in near darkness waiting to be eaten
Animal rescuers with charity Humane Society International have expressed their shock and sadness at conditions at a dog meat farm in South Korea where 55 adult dogs and puppies were being caged in near darkness for the country’s dog meat trade. HSI reached an agreement with the husband and wife dog farmers to permanently close the farm and fly all the dogs to the United States for adoption into loving homes. This is the seventh dog meat farm the charity has closed in South Korea so far, saving more than 800 dogs as part of its campaign across Asia to end the killing dogs for consumption.
HSI has chartered a flight to transport all 55 dogs from Seoul to the United States. Animal shelters that are part of The Humane Society of the United States’ Emergency Placement Partner program will transfer the dogs to New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team will debut its new disaster relief and transport vehicle to help take the dogs to Pennsylvania and Maryland. SPCA of Texas in Dallas will also receive a group of dogs from this rescue. A full list of participating shelter partners is below.
An estimated 17,000 dog meat farms operate in South Korea, rearing more than 2.5 million dogs a year for human consumption. HSI’s rescue team is used to dealing with the filthy, deprived conditions where dogs are kept in barren metal cages, but this latest farm in Goyang, just 12 miles north-west of central Seoul, is unlike anything the team had seen before. Not a typical dog meat farm, it is an entirely indoor facility in a dark labyrinth layout of narrow corridors reaching pens and cages of dogs living without daylight or fresh air. As with all dog farms, the team found a variety of breeds including miniature pinscher mixes, Jindo mixes, a great Pyrenees/golden retriever mix, a German shorthaired pointer, Shih Tzus and a little corgi/Chihuahua mix.
HSI’s Adam Parascandola, director of animal protection and crisis response, said: “In the more than two years that I’ve been part of our campaign to shut down the dog meat trade in Asia, I thought I’d seen it all until I first saw this facility. It literally took my breath away, not least because when we first entered the darkness, the stench was overpowering. The ammonia burned the back of our throats. We could hear the dogs’ desperate barks but we couldn’t see their faces properly, just their eyes peering out. As we became accustomed to the darkness, we saw the pitiful state these poor animals had been living in. The farm is right on the public path next to the train tracks, but the people walking by would never have known what suffering it concealed.”
Of the 55 dogs rescued by HSI, two are suspected to be former pets, likely unwanted and sold for meat. One Maltase-mix caged in isolation wore a very tight electric shock collar that was deeply embedded in mats of hair. If the HSI team hadn’t removed it, the collar would soon have dug into his flesh. The group also includes a litter of five Jindo puppies who will now escape growing up in a life of misery.
Parascandola added: “These dogs have lived their lives so far in deplorable conditions, so we’re all really excited to be getting them out. Most appear to have had little human contact and many of them are understandably very frightened of people, cowering as we approach and trying to hide in corners. But we know from experience that once we take them to a safe place and they feel secure and loved, they’ll learn to trust. Their capacity to bounce back from the worst situations is astonishing to me. A number of the dogs are already super friendly, and one of the Jindo mothers who appeared nervous at first, just sat in my lap and wouldn’t move. It was like she’d found comfort at last and she wasn’t giving it up. She doesn’t know it yet but she’ll have a soft warm bed for the rest of her life now.”
On most of HSI’s previous dog farm closures, the charity has worked with farmers on a business plan to transition them to humane livelihoods such as chili or blueberry farming. In this case, the owners, now in their 70s and looking to retire, approached HSI for help because they want to leave the dogs in kind hands.
Speaking through a translator, the farmer, Mr. Kim, said: “I’ve been farming dogs for 20 years, but in all that time I’ve never killed them or taken them to the slaughter house myself. Mostly dog traders came to my farm to take them away. Personally, I like dogs, and I kept feeling bad whenever I sold them to the traders. The business has never been that big, I used to have around 20 dogs and I tried to leave the dog meat industry several times but somehow people gave me dogs and I restarted. I used to eat dog meat but now I can’t eat it. These days I mostly don’t want to sell the dogs, so I don’t and that’s why we now have more than 50 dogs. Plus, now I’ve got old so it’s too much work for me too. I’ve heard that more and more dog meat restaurants are shutting down and now it’s not a business that people are willing to do for a living. Dog meat consumers are also getting less and less, so although I can’t say it will be ended, I can say it is a dying business for sure. I think that HSI’s idea to urge the South Korean government to work with farmers like me to close farms, is a great plan.”
As well as saving the lives of dogs who have suffered terribly as part of the meat industry, HSI’s farm closures have a strategic purpose in demonstrating a blueprint for change to the South Korean government. HSI is urging the government to adopt this blueprint to end the dog meat trade. With the 2018 Winter Olympics coming to Pyeongchang in just under a year, now is the time for the authorities to pledge action so that the world can focus on the country’s preparations for a great sporting event, rather than on the terrible cruelty of dogs raised for meat that few Koreans regularly consume.
- Most people in South Korea don’t regularly eat dog, and the practice is increasingly falling out of favour with the younger generation who are more likely to have never eaten it, or eat it once or twice a year at special occasions;
- HSI is keen to dispel the widespread misconception in South Korea that ‘dog meat’ dogs are stupid and soulless, and somehow different from companion dogs;
- During the hottest days of summer, called the Bok Nal days, dog meat eating increases even among citizens who never otherwise eat dog. Hot and spicy dog meat boshintang soup is eaten in the belief that it invigorates the blood in the sluggish heat;
- In China, Vietnam, Nagaland in India and other places across Asia an estimated 30 million dogs are brutally killed and eaten each year. However, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore have dog meat bans in place.
For more information visit hsi.org/dogmeat
B-roll video and photos of the dogs in the farm are available here.
HSI (United Kingdom): Wendy Higgins: firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)7989 972 423
HSI (Washington DC, USA): Raul Arce-Contreras: email@example.com, + 1 240.620.3263
HSI (South Korea): Nara Kim, firstname.lastname@example.org
For UK supporter enquiries: call 020 7490 5288 or email email@example.com
For US general enquiries: call 866-614-4371 or fill out our contact form
Below is a list of HSUS Emergency Placement Partner shelters receiving dogs from this latest rescue. We may update this list, so please check back.
Animal Welfare League of Queen Anne's County
South Hill Pet Rescue
Rescue Our Furry Friends (ROFF)
SPCA of Texas
Preston County Animal Shelter