As South Korea’s Boknal summer season, during which more than one million dogs are killed and eaten as a spicy soup, gets underway, Humane Society International has changed the grim fate of 149 dogs and new born puppies saved from the pot. Once destined to be sold to a nearby dog meat market to be killed by electrocution and butchered in time for the Boknal days, the fate of the dogs all changed when the dog meat farmer asked HSI to help him close his dog meat farm in rural Yesan.
The dogs are being flown to animals shelters and rescues in the United States to help them get a new life. Fifteen tiny puppies are too young to fly so will stay with their moms at a foster home until they can make the trip to the States. See below for a list of shelters receiving dogs from this rescue.
This is the ninth dog meat farm that HSI has permanently closed since 2014, rescuing and rehoming nearly 1,000 dogs by working in cooperation with dog meat farmers keen to get out of the trade. This latest farmer is considering a move into crop growing, and if so HSI will help him with a business plan. Other dog farmers who HSI has helped have moved into humane livelihoods like chili plant growing and water delivery.
The rescues and farm closures are part of HSI’s broader strategy that aims to encourage the South Korean government to end the cruel dog meat industry.
Nara Kim, HSI’s South Korea dog meat campaigner, said: “With every dog meat farm we close, we are not only saving the lives of these poor, terrified dogs caught up in this cruel trade, but we are also presenting a successful blueprint for change that we hope the government will follow. Eating dog is a dying practice in Korea, especially among young people. However, the Boknal days of summer still lead many to eat dog meat soup in the mistaken belief that it will invigorate the blood in the sluggish heat. Our campaign shows them the disgusting conditions in which the dogs are forced in live in their own feces, and their pitiful suffering, and it is changing hearts and minds.”
More than 2.5 million dogs a year are reared on thousands of dog meat farms across South Korea. The farm in Yesan is a typical dog meat farm with row upon row of bored, frustrated, frightened dogs in barren metal cages, many with injuries and deep pressure sores. For example, Emily is a beautiful young mastiff-cross suffering from painful skin diseases and swollen paws. HSI found her cowering in her cage, too afraid to lift her head or make eye contact. Angel is a 4-month-old puppy who has been kept in lonely isolation, so desperate for company she leapt into the arms of our HSI team when they first opened her rusty cage.
Opposition to the dog meat trade is growing among Korean citizens and politicians, and even the newly elected President Moon Jae-in recently adopted a dog named Tory who was rescued from a dog meat farm.
Kim says: “Some people say that dog eating is Korean culture, but you won’t find many young people who feel it’s a cultural habit we want to hold on to. It’s intellectually lazy to use culture as an excuse for cruelty because all cultures evolve over time and we often shed practices of the past. We are hopeful that things will change, and that the new Korean president will advance a new culture of compassion to animals. I am so happy that for these dogs the dog meat trade is over, but we have to fight on for the millions who are still suffering.”
Across the summer, HSI is taking its campaign to the streets of Seoul to raise awareness. An eye-catching advertising poster featuring Korean-American actor Daniel Henney recently launched on the Seoul subway, and next the charity will invite Seoul’s citizens to experience the grim reality of dog farm life for themselves by trying out their iDog virtual reality experience. The charity is also running a petition in English and Korean with campaign partners Korean Animal Rights Advocates.
- The Boknal days are not a festival or single event, but the three hottest days of summer according to the lunar calendar, falling on July 12 (Cho Bok), July 22 (Jung Bok) and Aug. 11 (Mal Bok).
- During the Boknal days, 70-80 percent of dog meat is eaten in South Korea, mainly as a peppery soup called bosintang that is believed to improve stamina and virility.
- Most people in South Korea never visit a dog meat farm and are unaware of the suffering experienced by the dogs. HSI is keen to dispel the widespread misconception that farmed dogs are somehow different in nature to companion 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, although there have been instances of dogs taking up to 20 minutes to die. Hanging is also common. Dogs are killed in full view of the other dogs, and their final moments will be terrifying and extremely painful.
- 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, killing in public areas or in front of other animals of the same species.
- 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.
- 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 then quarantines the dogs on the farm or at a temporary shelter with no dogs in or out for at least 30 days prior to transport to the US.
For more information visit hsi.org/dogmeat
Note: Below is a list of HSUS Emergency Placement Partner shelters receiving dogs from this latest rescue. The dogs are being transported on various days in the coming weeks; please check their websites for dog arrival and adoption information.
Magnificent Mutts, Hillside, Ill.
Humane Society of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Ind.
St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, Madison, N.J.
Animal Haven, New York City
South Hills Pet Rescue, South Park, Pa.
Lynchburg Humane Society, Lynchburg, Va.
Elmbrook Humane Society, Brookfield, Wis.
Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS), Waukesha, Wis.
Northwoods Humane Society, Hayward, Wis.
Sheboygan County Humane Society, Sheboygan, Wis.
Washington County Humane Society, Slinger, Wis.
In addition to our shelter and rescue partners, we are grateful to the Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team (PAART), which provided transport to Pennsylvania.