A LANDSCAPE OF SUFFERING
A staggering atrocity is happening every day in South Korea: dogs and cats living tormented lives in the margins of an unfathomable existence—victims of the dog and cat meat industry, with its deliberate and indefensible cruelty, and the South Korean government’s hovering inert over the pervasive smell of human injustice.
There are two South Koreas: the dazzling country whose lofty financial status as one of the fastest growing economies in the world after years of devastation by the Korean War and Japanese occupation is nothing short of stunning and, tragically, just beneath the breathtaking progress, the sordid and shameful dog and cat meat trade. Even the South Korean Catholic Church has an intimate relationship with the unsavory and dirty business, where some clergy breed dogs for slaughter, and dog meat is being served at charity functions and food markets, much to the horror of many congregants.
Because of conflicting laws and the very definition of what a dog is—livestock vs. non-livestock—dog and cat meat is neither legal nor illegal but inhabits “a legal blind spot.” During a visit to South Korea, Dr. Tae-Yung Kim, Ph.D., and director of the General Animal Health Division, of the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MIFAFF), told IDA “there are no legal grounds for the practice of eating dogs in Korea. A vacuum exists in our legal framework.” MIFAFF does not recognize dog meat as legal while the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW), which controls dog meat post-slaughter, does, and therein lies the problem. There isn’t a country in the world that has legalized the dog meat industry, nor developed a humane way of supplying dogs and cats for human consumption.
This $2 billion dollar-a-year industry extinguishes the lives of approximately two and a half million dogs a year for meat or gaesoju, a dog broth or stamina food, and about 100,000 cats, for soup and goyangyeesoju or “health tonics.” At the end of their brief and miserable lives, farmers and butchers kill in the most horrific fashion with impunity: dogs are murdered with high-voltage electrocution, not dying immediately, are hanged, beaten to death, and frequently have their throats slashed. They are killed within sight of their doomed cage mates, thrown into a tub of boiling water, then into a rotating drum for the removal of their fur, and finally blowtorched, often while still alive. Cats are bludgeoned and thrown into boiling water while conscious. Many have their legs broken so they can’t escape, and are skinned alive. Unlike dogs, cats are not farmed for their meat, but are stolen, surrendered, or picked up as strays. Perhaps most pernicious of all is the nightmarish fiction, fueled solely by profit, that the more suffering endured during slaughter, the more tender the meat and more potent the so-called medicinal properties.
IDA has dedicated itself to helping the dogs and cats of South Korea since receiving a letter from a South Korean woman begging for help after witnessing a beautiful white dog being literally torn apart and told with a big smile that the meat would be more tender the greater the terror and pain the dog experienced. Suffering is suffering, no matter where it occurs and no matter how often the terms “culture” and “tradition” are used as carapaces from the truth.
South Korea is the only country in the world that makes a distinction between dogs—edible or meat dogs and animal companions, and the great lie is that only a certain type of dog is eaten—the yellow mixed dog known as Nureongi (the ones you see all over the Moran Market, stuffed into cages). But any dog ends up in the meat trade: former animal companions, purebreds (Cocker Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Schnauzers, Malteses, Beagles, among them), dogs from puppy mills, shelters, dogs sold at closed dog auctions, Jindos who failed to pass the Jindo Preservation Ordinance (Jindo is a designated breed as the 53rd Natural Treasure in SK). All of these dogs are eaten as meat or gaesoju or “health” food or boshintang as dog meat soup.
And while the self-proclaimed Dr. Dog Meat lays claim to dog meat as the single greatest health food in South Korea, consumers of dog meat may be ingesting sickly, diseased dogs riddled with antibiotics and fed rotting fermented human leftovers that carry human saliva, making them vulnerable to contagious diseases and dangerous for human consumption.
South Korea is a country possessed of an intricate culture soaked with politics and tradition, and it recoils when the subject of dog and cat meat consumption arises, experiencing a soul’s unease with the very subject. Its glittering global status cannot hide the shame so many South Koreans feel about this abomination.
This site is dedicated to the tens of millions of dogs and cats who have suffered and died in this unspeakable industry of horror.