As the South Korean government ponders a possible ban on the country’s dog meat industry, the remarkable resilience of some of the lucky canine survivors of that trade who now live in adoptive families in the United States, feature in a stunning new portrait series by award-winning photographer, Sophie Gamand. Gamand’s Survivors of the Dog Meat Trade portraits appear for a limited showing at the Hamilton-Selway Fine Art gallery in West Hollywood. The portraits feature a handful of the more than 2,500 dogs rescued by Humane Society International from South Korean dog meat farms.
Sophie Gamand is famous for her Pit Bull Flower Power Project that single-handedly transformed the image of much maligned pit bulls languishing in shelters across the U.S. When Humane Society International asked her to apply that same magic to help lift the fortunes of dogs who are intensively bred on factory farms for human consumption in South Korea, she jumped at the chance to once again use photography to change lives. This time the beneficiaries are the more than one million dogs who HSI estimates are on dog meat farms in South Korea.
Gamand says: “Through this series I want people to see these dogs for the strong and beautiful beings that they are. I created handmade collars for these survivors because dog collars are a powerful symbol of love, commitment and care. Joining Humane Society International on one of its dog meat farm rescue missions opened my eyes to both the disturbing conditions in which these dogs live, and the resilience they constantly show.”
Humane Society International has been on the ground in South Korea since 2015, working in partnership with farmers eager to exit the controversial and dying business. Dogs are typically bred in row upon row of barren cages on dilapidated farms, bitterly cold in winter and stiflingly hot in Korea’s punishing summer. Dogs are denied proper food and water and often have only harsh metal wire mesh floor to sleep on, causing painful pressure sores. Like most people across Asia, the vast majority of South Koreans don’t eat dog meat, and many of the farmers with whom HSI works talk of family and societal pressure to get out of what is increasingly seen by Koreans as an unacceptable livelihood. HSI’s Models for Change program helps these farmers transition to more humane and sustainable livelihoods such as chili or water parsley growing.
The canine stars of Gamand’s portraits include Luna and Moon, who both now live in the Washington D.C. area and Ruby, who now resides in Las Vegas. Each dog is adorned with an intricate and glamorous collar created personally by Gamand to help rebrand these dogs, who are too often wrongly presented as soulless and vicious by the industry that exploits them, within South Korea.
One of the dogs featured is Birdie, a Jindo/Labrador mix who was rescued by HSI in 2018 and adopted by Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy. Another is Juliette, rescued by HSI in 2020 and subsequently adopted by The Wheel of Time actor Daniel Henney.
Henney says: “I’m immensely proud that my dog Juliette is one of the dog meat trade survivors featured in Sophie Gamand’s portrait project for Humane Society International. I hope to see an end, a complete end, to the dog meat trade in South Korea. I think it’s not a matter of if, but when it will happen.”
Golden retriever Chewbacca is also among the portraits, who now lives in Virginia with adopter and Humane Society International president Jeffrey Flocken, who says: “HSI’s campaign is focused on ending the dog meat industry in South Korea, the only country in the world that intensively farms dogs for consumption, and we’re making incredible progress. The real goal is to get a ban passed that will end this industry forever so that no more dogs have to suffer. And, on a personal note, this campaign means a lot to me because it brought me and my family Chewbacca, who was rescued from HSI’s fifteenth dog meat farm closure, and is now a beloved member of our family.”
A dog meat ban is currently being considered by an official task force initiated last year by the South Korean government after the then President Moon Jae-in suggested the time is right to consider a ban.
Newly elected President Yoon Seok-yeol, who has four dogs including Tori a rescued Jindo—a breed typically found on dog meat farms—confirmed his support for a ban on dog meat during the presidential election campaign, provided there is social consensus.
More information can be found at https://www.hsi.org/sophie-gamand-dog-meat-survivors/.
Media contact: Madeline Bove: firstname.lastname@example.org; 213-248-1548