Bok-Nal in Seoul

August 14th, 2013 by Robin Dorman


Though dog meat is consumed year-round, the practice becomes ritualized, mythologized, and celebrated during the summer, when farms are teeming with dogs. Bok-Nal (“dog-eating days”), according to the lunar calendar, falls on the hottest days of the year.

In 2013, Bok-Nal began on July 13th, or Cho Bok, first summer, followed by Joong Bok, mid-summer, on the 23rd, and Mal Bok, end of summer, on August 12th. The restaurants serving dog meat soup, or boshintang, overflow with customers, who zealously believe dog meat, with its alleged cooling properties, will strengthen their bodies and “help stamina” to beat the heat. Paradoxically, in Vietnam and China, dog meat is believed to have “warming effects,” and consumed during the winter months.

In Defense of AnimalsAn unrelievedly terrifying time for dogs, Seoul is alive with anti-dog meat protests and performances.

IDA joined People Defending Animals (PDA), a South Korean animal-protection group that focuses on education, advocacy, and outreach, with some forty volunteers on hand, and spent the first Bok day, July 13th, rallying at Gyang Hwa Moon Plaza. This is a massive and historic square in the center of downtown Seoul.

Streams of passers-by strolled through the area of government buildings and the heart of the financial center, and received packets of nuts, raisins, and rice crackers, symbolizing the desire to create a more favorable health food culture in South Korea, and deconstructing the myth—fueled by profit—that dogs are the greatest health food, and so-called health tonics made from cats the perfect antidote to rheumatism.

In fact, the World Health Organization highlights the trade in dogs for human consumption as a contributing factor to the spread of rabies in Indonesia and the Philippines. There is evidence that both cholera and e-coli spread in Vietnam after the consumption of dog meat, and, in China, the presence of parasites, which live in human muscle, mushroomed. In South Korea, infectious diseases are present and potentially transmitted throughout all stages of the dog meat trade—sourcing, trading, large-scale movement, slaughtering, and consumption. The emphasis on dog and cat meat as health food defies logic.

Approximately 100 animal enthusiasts happily posed with their own dogs or held up PDA posters at the PDA/IDA photo wall, funded by In Defense of Animals, to have their photos added to a PDA-created patchwork collage made up of individual photos. The collage will be evolving, year-round, and will eventually tour throughout South Korea. PDA has an online photo campaign, and its original 4 ft. x 4 ft. poster made its first public appearance at the Bok day. Since the event, the poster stands at nearly 7ft. x 7ft. and continues to grow.

Rescue dogs Elena and Hyori welcomed many a visitor to the event. Over 2,000 PDA and IDA brochures were distributed. A middle school girl saw the PDA and IDA posters on display, began talking about her dog, and broke down in tears about the horror of treating dogs and cats with such shocking cruelty. A young man who posed at the photo wall immediately sent his photo to his boss who relishes dog meat.

In Defense of Animals

The second Bok day, on July 23rd, was deluged with an epic downpour, as PDA activists stood out in the storm, distributing more leaflets (over 1,000 PDA and IDA brochures were snatched up during lunch time), along with packets of nuts. Held at Joong-Goo, Moogyo-dong, across from the Exchange Building, amid restaurant alley, the protesters marched to restaurants serving dog meat soup and placed the patchwork collage at the entrance of one.

Some office girls came down to the event and asked for more leaflets, so that they could take them to their office to share, saying that their bosses all eat dog meat. Some men in their forties also requested leaflets.

A police officer was on hand, monitoring the event, and he cheered the PDA protesters, saying that he doesn’t eat dog meat. He loves dogs too much, and thanked PDA for its campaign.

According to PDA-affiliated and IDA supporter, Jihyun Jun, “the patchwork poster died a heroic death at one of the dog meat restaurants. The seething restaurant owner angrily grabbed the poster off the street and stormed inside his restaurant with it, which was fine with us.”

IDA has recently learned that one of its rescues (with help from PDA) called Rio—a former so-called dog meat dog—is now a therapy dog to her guardian, who is losing her hearing. How is it acceptable to eat such a being?

IDA will continue to work to change the hearts and minds of those still engaging in this horrific practice, and we look forward to the day when no living being suffers to provide a momentary taste or a useless folk medicine.

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