SEOUL–A 71-year-old dog meat farmer in Gyeonggi-do has become the latest recruit to animal charity Humane Society International’s pioneering program to phase out the cruel dog meat industry in South Korea by working in partnership with farmers who want to get out of the increasingly controversial business. Farmer Lee, who had raised dogs for human consumption for 14 years before approaching HSI for help, is the 13th dog meat farmer to work with the charity to permanently shutter his business and transition to a more profitable and humane livelihood.
Farmer Lee plans to expand his medicinal herb farm instead, whilst his more than 200 dogs will be flown to Canada, the U.K, United States and the Netherlands so that our shelter and rescue partners can help us get them the love and care they deserve. Farmer Lee says: “When I first started this farm I had heard that the dog meat industry was booming and I thought it would be a safe retirement plan. But the fact is eating dog meat has been on the decline ever since, and these days so few people want to eat dog that I’m actually losing money. I’ve wanted to stop dog farming for a while but I didn’t know how to make it happen until a former dog farmer told me about HSI’s scheme to turn dog farms into new businesses. I think there will be a lot of interest from other dog farmers wanting to quit too, because it’s not just about saving the dogs but about helping us farmers too, and I appreciate that.”
HSI worked with Farmer Lee to agree the closure of his farm and the rescue of the more than 200 dogs and puppies who spent their lives in barren wire cages, many suffering from painful sores, skin diseases and depression. While the cages will be destroyed, HSI will help the Labrador retrievers, collies, spaniel, pointer and Maltese mixes, poodle, Shar pei, Great Pyrenees, and Korean Jindos and tosas to heal physically and emotionally from their ordeal so that they can look forward to new happy lives in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
The majority of the dogs will fly to HSI’s temporary shelter in Montreal, Canada, including dogs like Quentin the Sharpei, who is almost blind from an untreated eye infection; Jean Claude, a Belgian Malinois who was just skin and bones when we found him lying in a cage not much bigger than his body; and Simba the Tibetan mastiff, who is a gentle giant craving affection and reassurance.
Kitty Block, president of Humane Society International, says: “Behind every rescue are the stories of individual dogs who have survived the dog meat trade against all the odds. They are the brave ambassadors for our campaign to end this cruel and obsolete industry for good, and helping them recover from their ordeal is a privilege. Our latest dog farm closure comes as the House of Representatives just voted to ban the trade of dog and cat meat in the United States, and we hope to see the Senate take the measure up very soon. It’s a law we hope to see replicated in South Korea, China, Vietnam and across Asia so that the sun can finally set on this despicably cruel trade.”
The public and political dog meat debate is taking place in South Korea like never before. In the last several months a court in Bucheon fined a farmer because his reason for killing a dog – for meat – was considered insufficient justification; Seoul City announced there will be no more dog slaughterhouses at Kyungdong Market in Dongdaemun from next year; Seongnam’s Taepyeongdong dog slaughterhouse – the largest in the country – has also been earmarked for closure; and the President’s Blue House pledged to consider removing dogs and cats from the legal definition of livestock and noted the need for the government “to consider solutions for dog meat related workers”. Most recently a Supreme Court concluded that killing dogs by electrocution (the favoured method of the dog meat trade) is too cruel and breaches animal welfare law.
Nara Kim, HSI’s South Korea dog meat campaigner, believes HSI’s model for change provides that ideal solution: “Across Asia, momentum is building to end the dog meat trade. Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore already have bans in place, with Indonesia recently pledging a ban, and the authorities in Hanoi, Vietnam also committing to ending the cruel trade. So the time is right for South Korea also to embrace change. We stand ready to be a part of that change, and would welcome government officials to come and see our farm closure scheme for themselves. Phasing out the brutal trade by working with farmers is the way forward, we just need the government to adopt this scheme and take it nationwide.”
HSI has closed down dog meat farms across Namyangju, Ilsan, Hongseong, Haemi, Wonju, Goyang, Seongnam, Yesan and Gyeonggi-do, with very elderly farmers choosing to retire and others switching to trades such as water delivery, mushroom growing and parsley farming.
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- More than 2.5 million dogs a year are reared on thousands of dog meat farms across South Korea, the only country known to farm dogs for human consumption. Across Asia, in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Cambodia etc. an estimated 30 million dogs are killed and eaten each year, mainly stolen pets and street dogs.
- In addition to their life of suffering on the farm, the method used to kill the dogs is brutal – death by electrocution is most common, with dogs usually taking up to five minutes to die, (and there have been recorded instances of dogs taking up to 20 minutes to die). Hanging is also practiced. Dogs are killed in full view of other dogs.
- While most people don’t regularly eat dog, it remains popular during the Bok days of summer in July and August, when it is eaten as a soup called bosintang in the unsubstantiated belief that it improves stamina and virility.
- The dog meat industry is in legal limbo in South Korea, neither legal nor illegal. Many provisions of the Animal Protection Act are routinely breached, such as the ban on killing animals in a brutal way including hanging by the neck, and on killing them in public areas or in front of other animals of the same species.
- At each dog meat farm closure, HSI has a veterinarian test for the presence of the H3N2, or dog flu, virus at the time the dogs receive their rabies, DHPP, and corona virus vaccines. HSI also vaccinates the dogs for distemper, parvo and coronavirus. HSI then quarantines the dogs on the farm or at a temporary shelter with no dogs permitted in or out for at least 30 days prior to transport overseas.