SEOUL―Stunning portraits of dogs rescued from South Korea’s dog meat trade will have their Seoul debut in an exhibition called Beyond Prejudice by award-winning French photographer Sophie Gamand and Humane Society International/Korea.
The 30 dogs featured in the portraits—including Juliette, a golden retriever adopted by “Wheel of Time” actor Daniel Henney―were all once confined in barren cages or chained on dog meat farms in South Korea, but were rescued and adopted overseas thanks to HSI/Korea. Each dog wears an elaborate personalized, handmade collar created by Gamand to symbolize the love and care these dogs now receive as cherished family companions.
This unique exhibition comes to the Seoul Metro Art Centre in Gyeongbokgung Station from May 28 to June 1, which is just over a month before the start of Bok Nal when dog meat consumption typically increases in South Korea, and at a time of considerable political and social momentum for a ban on the dog meat industry. First lady Kim Keon Hee recently reiterated her desire for a dog meat ban, and both the ruling PPP party and the main opposition Democratic Party have expressed their support for legislative reform. Latest polling by Nielsen Korea commissioned by HSI/Korea also show that the vast majority of Koreans (87.5%) have either never eaten dog meat or don’t intend to do so in the future, and a growing majority (56%) support a ban.
HSI/Korea hopes that Gamand’s portraits will help challenge unfounded negative perceptions of “meat dogs” as soulless in the same way that her 2014-2022 photo series Pit Bull Flower Power was instrumental in transforming the public image of pit bulls seeking adoption at U.S. shelters.
Sangkyung Lee, Korea dog meat campaign manager for HSI/Korea, says: “As Korea considers a ban on the dog meat industry, our rescue portraits provide a timely reminder that behind the bars of every cage on these dog meat farms are remarkable dogs every bit as precious as our own canine companions. Sophie Gamand’s portraits celebrate the true beauty of these dogs, all of whom would have been killed for meat had it not been for rescue by HSI/Korea. We hope that by introducing Korean people to dogs like Juliette, Abby, Gregg, Comet and Jayu we can all feel inspired to work together to end the dog meat industry for good.”
It is estimated that up to 1 million dogs a year are intensively bred for human consumption in South Korea. In addition to tosas and Jindo crosses, breeds typically associated with the dog meat trade in Korea, all breeds of dogs can be found on dog meat farms including Labradors, huskies, beagles and spaniels. HSI/Korea invited Gamand to help showcase the resilience, beauty and individuality of these dogs, rebranding them as the true survivors that they are.
Sophie Gamand says: “When I visited a dog meat farm in 2019 with HSI in Korea, I found it a profoundly moving experience. It truly opened my eyes to both the disturbing conditions in which these dogs exist, and the resilience they constantly show despite their suffering. I’m immensely thrilled and proud to be bringing this dog meat trade survivor portrait exhibition to Seoul, particularly at a time where there has been much political momentum towards a dog meat industry ban. 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 which is what these extraordinary dogs deserve.”
This inspiring exhibition also introduces visitors to HSI/Korea’s Models for Change program which works cooperatively with dog meat farmers to help them close their farms and transition to more humane and sustainable livelihoods such as chili plant or parsley growing.
Actor Daniel 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/Korea. My beautiful Juliette started life on a dog meat farm in South Korea, so it’s very special for me to know that her portrait will be part of the exhibition in Seoul. I hope to see 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.”
The Beyond Prejudice portrait collection will be available for public view free of charge at the Seoul Metro Museum in Gyeongbokgung Station from May 28–June 1, 2023.
Media contact: Wendy Higgins: firstname.lastname@example.org