SEOUL—Fifty dogs on a South Korean dog meat farm have escaped the cooking pot barely a month before the start of the Boknal summer season, during which more than one million dogs are eaten as ‘bosintang’ soup.
Animal charity Humane Society International has worked in South Korea for three years permanently closing dog meat farms and helping farmers switch to alternative livelihoods as part of its strategy to demonstrate that the cruel trade can be phased out.
HSI reached an agreement with Farmer Shin who has bred dogs for eating for four years in Namyangju-si, Gyeonggi-do but now plans to expand his more profitable water parsley business. This will be the 12th dog meat farm closed down by the charity, which has so far flown more than 1,300 dogs to the U.S., UK and Canada to find new homes. These latest 50 dogs—including Jindo crosses, terrier crosses and Sapsal—will fly to HSI/Canada’s temporary shelter in Montreal.
Meanwhile, back in South Korea, HSI’s Seoul-based campaigners will use the heart-wrenching images from the farm to raise awareness as the Boknal season approaches and dog meat soup appears on menus more frequently.
Nara Kim, HSI’s South Korea dog meat campaigner, says: “This farm is typical of many smaller dog meat farms we see across South Korea—dilapidated cages, squalid conditions, dogs in appalling conditions, some barely clinging to life when our rescue team arrives. It’s vital that we show Koreans the grim reality of these places because most people have no idea and are really horrified. Although the practice of eating dog is on the decline, and we anticipate it will ultimately die out, during the Bok days of summer we still see an increase in people eating dog meat soup. We hope to change that by exposing the disgusting and cruel conditions, and we hope also to influence the government as a growing number of South Koreans are calling on our politicians to shut down this brutal trade.”
Farmer Shin was eager to join HSI’s dog meat farm closure program after hearing from other former dog farmers working with the charity. With profits from dog farming dwindling, and his water parsley business booming, Mr Shin realised that the dog eating business is a dead-end industry. Once HSI rescues the dogs, the cages will be dismantled and Mr Shin will focus full time on his crop growing.
Farmer Shin, who asked to have his identity hidden in HSI photos for fear his water parsley customers would find his dog farming offensive, says: “With my parsley growing so successful, and the life of a dog farmer really too hard, I just don’t need this in my life any more. It is much better to stop farming dogs, I will be relieved for it to end.”
More than 2.5 million dogs a year are reared on thousands of dog meat farms across South Korea. The farm in Gyeonggi-do is one of many hundreds of smaller sized farms across the country, although large farms can keep as many as 2,000 dogs or more. Many of the dogs in HSI’s latest rescue are suffering from painful skin diseases and swollen paws that HSI will help to heal once they are safely in Canada. Louis the cocker spaniel was abandoned as a pet dog, and despite living in terrible conditions, he is still very loving and craves human affection. Another dog on the farm, Kaya, is a wonderful Jindo mix and a devoted mum to puppies HSI hopes will soon forget their sad days spent on a dog meat farm.
President of Humane Society International Kitty Block says: “South Korea’s President Moon is a dog lover who recently opened up his heart and home to a rescue pup. So he will know that these beautiful dogs languishing on dog meat farms are just as loving and smart as any pet dog. President Moon also recently proposed amending South Korea’s Constitution to include respect for animal welfare, so we believe that now is the perfect time for the country to look at HSI’s program as a strategic, workable solution to ending this most heartless of trades.”
- The Bok days are not a festival or single event, but the three hottest days spanning the summer months according to the lunar calendar, this year falling on July 17(Cho Bok), July 27th (Jung Bok) and Aug. 16th (Mal Bok).
- Boknal accounts for 70-80 percent of the dog meat eaten in South Korea, mainly as a soup called bosintang that is believed to improve stamina and virility.
- 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.
- 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.
- In China, Vietnam, Indonesia, India and other places across Asia an estimated 30 million dogs are killed and eaten each year. However, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore have dog meat bans in place.
- 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.
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