South Korea's Cruel Dog Meat Industry
South Korea is the only country in the world known to have established intensive dog breeding farms throughout the peninsula to supply the demand for dog meat and associated products, ranging from small ‘backyard’ enterprises housing ~20 dogs, to large-scale facilities housing thousands of dogs. The conditions on these farms are pitiful, and throughout their short lives, the dogs are never shown anything but brutality, and an absolute indifference to their sentience.
Further compounding the issue in South Korea is the dual perception of dogs that has emerged, where there is a widely-held belief that there are two ‘types’ of dogs: ‘meat dogs’, consisting of the ‘tosa mix’ and ‘yellow dogs’ (“Nureongii”), for human consumption; and ‘pet’ dogs’, consisting of ‘breeds’ of dogs (labradors, poodles, huskies, etc.), for companionship.
Those categorised as ‘meat dogs’ are widely perceived to be ‘dirty’, ‘stupid’ and ‘soulless’ in South Korea. This perception has resulted in them being considered and treated as animals deserving of little consideration, protection or value. This belief is held by many and reflected in legislation and by the attitudes of the industry, public and government, and continues to secure support for the dog meat industry even by those who do not eat dog meat themselves. However, the reality is that the ‘pet dog’ and ‘meat dog’ industries are one and the same; and ultimately the fate of any dog in South Korea depends on where the greatest profits can be made, and it is common to see many different breeds of dogs at markets and on dog farms, often still wearing collars, a sign of their former status as a ‘pet dog’.
The dog meat industry is largely seasonal in South Korea, and dog meat is particularly popular during the summer months and over the boknal days - the three hottest days of the lunar calendar - when bosintang is favoured as it is believed to improve stamina and virility during the hot and humid summer months. During these months- late May to August, 70- 80% of dog meat is consumed, even by those who never eat dog meat at any other time of year. Live dogs and dog meat are sold in markets throughout South Korea; and “boshintang” (“invigorating soup”) is served in over >3,500 nationwide. ‘Gaesoju’ (‘dog tonic’) is sold in boshinwon (nutritional or body health shops) throughout the peninsula, and, like bosintang, is widely-believed to hold medicinal properties.
It is estimated that 2.5-3 million dogs were slaughtered for human consumption in South Korea in 2014, raised on one of over 17,000 farms located throughout the country, and supplemented from the pet and ‘fighting dog’ industries.
Regardless of their origin or breed, the cruelty of the industry is the same. The dogs are usually kept in small, barren cages, with little or no protection from South Korea’s sweltering summer or freezing winter, isolated in ‘battery cages’ or caged in small groups, sometimes tethered. The dogs are usually fed the dismembered parts of other animals and human food waste, with evidence of some framers feeding dead dogs to live dogs. Their existence is one of fear, boredom, frustration, hunger and disease. Veterinary care is non-existent, with farmers resorting to the indiscriminate misuse of antibiotics and other drugs to keep the dogs alive long enough to reach market value.
Injuries and medical conditions, including severe eye infections, skin diseases, prolapses, limb abnormalities, as well as self-mutilation, stereotypical cage pacing, head tilt and complete mental shut down associated with the mental depression and trauma of their existence, are widespread. The male and female dogs used for breeding can spend many years incarcerated on these farms.
The killing of the dogs is equally brutal. Until recently, strangulation through hanging and beating to death – sometimes in combination - were the most common killing methods. Although this practice does still occur, it has been largely replaced by the equally cruel use of electrocution to increase efficiency. Slaughter happens in markets or backstreet slaughterhouses, often in full view of other dogs, adding to their mental distress.
It is our resolute position that there is no humane way to raise and slaughter dogs destined for human consumption without causing immense animal suffering and risks to human and animal health, and no country in the world has ever officially legalised the production, sale or slaughter of dogs, or devised a humane way of doing so.
Whilst dog meat consumption is often defended as ‘tradition’ or ‘culture’, in more recent years, its production has proliferated for commercial reasons, and, alongside the significant animal welfare concerns associated with the industry, there is a mounting body of evidence that suggests that the production and consumption of their meat also poses a substantial risk to human health. Yet, despite the significance of the dog meat industry in South Korea, it operates either illegally or in breach of animal protection or disease control and human health regulations.
Change For Animals Foundation’s Work in South Korea
Between 2011- 2016, Change For Animals Foundation worked tirelessly to raise national and international awareness of the plight of the dogs suffering in South Korea’s dog meat industry. Years of research, preparation, planning and networking enabled us to forge links with those working within the dog meat industry and also to support and encourage animal advocates with similar goals to ours.
During this time, we worked closely with the Humane Society International (HSI) to assist with the closure of several dog farms, and we are pleased that they have committed to invest in campaigning to end South Korea’s dog meat trade.
Change For Animals Foundation is profoundly grateful for the amazing support we have had for our South Korea Dog Meat campaign. We are so proud of what we have achieved and thankful for the hundreds of individual dogs we have helped to rescue from the dog meat industry, that have been given new lives of freedom.
Now that HSI is undertaking the widespread campaign against dog meat in South Korea, CFAF as an organisation is able to properly turn its attention to some of the many other terrible abuses of animals routinely taking place in the world, including expanding our dog meat campaigns into areas where the dog meat trade continues largely unchallenged.
We are confident that this cruel industry will be brought to an end by HSI and others as soon as possible, and we are delighted that our Programmes Director Lola Webber will continue to work with HSI on this vital campaign by adopting a role with HSI on this campaign.
And if there is ever a need for CFAF to return to support this campaign, there will be no hesitation to do so – our commitment to South Korea’s dogs is not diminished by indirect involvement.
Whilst CFAF will continue to support all efforts to cease the dog meat trade in South Korea, we are excited about the opportunity we now have to be able to end the suffering of animals in other areas. Although we are a small charity with limited income, we have boundless expertise and enthusiasm for our work to end animal suffering and to promote a more compassionate attitude towards all animals.