A visit to a much smaller farm, with 10-15 dogs, and many empty cages, because it is the dead of winter. There is an anxious mother and her tiny, white newborn pups, three small Chihuahua mixes, their eyes filled with luminous pain, in this inferno of the condemned. In their dirty cages are nauseatingly filthy bowls filled with leftover human food from restaurants, schools, hospitals, among other places, of garbage: salty, rotten kimchi, spicy hot pepper paste, chili soup, fish bones, and other discarded rubbish. In the appallingly unsanitary world of breeding farms, the dogs eat this waste, which carries human saliva, and they often become carriers of disease to those who eat them. Many of the farms have no water for the dogs.
According to a groundbreaking television program that aired in South Korea, in 2011, called “South Korea’s Dangerous Health Food—Inconvenient Truth About Dog Meat,” an undercover team of reporters interviewed a Dr. Oh, who said that eating dog meat could be hazardous to your health. “These dogs are not fed standard diet appropriate for dogs. Therefore, poisonous substances from these dogs can be contagious to humans. And when these chemicals accumulated in our body, it can cause very serious health problems. Dog meat that is contaminated with germs such as Salmonella is not safe even when you boil or steam it because the germ can survive and cause diseases to humans.”
One segment of the program used an undercover team of reporters that delivered 17 different dog meat samples to the Seoul Health Environmental Research Center, which tested them with shocking results.
“Among the 17 samples tested, germs were found in 7; 6 types of common germs, 4 types of colon bacillus, and 1 type of yellow staphylococcus were found above the standard expected limit.”
And the widespread abuse of antibiotics and steroids used to ward off diseases in dogs killed for meat was revealed as a grave health concern. A dog meat farmer told the interviewers that he was using the antibiotic above the allowable limit. “For a large dog weighing around 20kg, we inject around 15-20ml of antibiotic.” A veterinarian responded, “When the dogs treated with antibiotic is eaten while the medication is still effective in its system, it can have a life-threatening effect on humans.”
Several dog farmers spoke about getting dogs with skin ailments at a bargain price from dog farms. One farmer said, “Dogs that would otherwise go for about 4,500 won can be purchased at a bargain for only about 2,000 won if it has some skin problems. People would think ‘it’s disgusting’ but for us, it’s an easy fix. We can burn the skin off with blowtorch and the skin comes right off. Problem solved.”
The farmer explained that the customer would never suspect any problems, because there are no signs left of any disease once the skin is burned off. The undercover reporters actually found a dog farm that specifically buys dogs with skin problems and sells them to dog meat restaurants. One dog who had scabies still looked sickly even after his skin was burned off. But the farmer said the quality of the meat was still good. There was little fat, and “when you burn it they all becomes dark so you can’t see the skin problem.” The farmer also felt confident that he would never be caught selling sick dogs. As he spoke, he was injecting some substance into a still-living dog, who began to shake. Luckily, for the farmer, as he began the killing process, the burning of the skin not only removes the fur but also camouflages whatever illness or skin condition the dog had. And these sickly dogs are transported to restaurants and the health food stores for gaesoju. “It looks better when it’s burned off. And if you cut them into pieces even if the skin is attached there is no problem because it’s even harder to see.”
An even greater revelation is that dogs who die of contagious diseases are routinely distributed for meat.
A dog farmer claimed that, “When a whole bunch of dogs die of contagious diseases they are frozen and stored in the freezer.” He went on to say that there was no danger in eating them as long as they are medicated. “The dogs that are dead of illness are always frozen. So if there is a customer order that needs delivery next day then we soak it in running water the night before in order to thaw it. The difference in these dogs is that they are already gutted. This is the common practice of dog meat industry.”
And not only dogs who are diseased go to market but also many abandoned animal companions. Coexistence of Animal Rights on earth (CARE) wrote about a story that was widely broadcast concerning customers at a restaurant discovering much to their displeasure four metal screws and a plate attached to a bone in their bowl of bosingtang, a popular dish made with dog meat. They not only asked for their money back but also filed complaints with the City Office. The dog was once an animal companion who had undergone a leg operation, strengthened by four screws and a metal plate. And then the dog ended up at a slaughterhouse, where the metal pieces went unnoticed by the both the butcher and cook.
In this foul swamp of a place, near the dogs, is an area for killing and preparing the meat, equipped with the ubiquitous rotating drum for fur removal, knives, bloody gloves, and killing implements for hanging and electrocution. At the farms, dogs are either hanged or electrocuted or still beaten to death. According to So-Yeon Park, of Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE), “Death is deliberately slow due to the belief that torture improves the taste and ‘health’ benefits of the meat. The typical method of slaughter is electrocution, which takes from 30 seconds to 3 minutes until the dog dies, beatings before and during slaughter, being burned with a blowtorch, boiled alive, and bled out. The ‘old-fashioned’ way involves hanging taking up to seven minutes.” After electrocution, when they may be conscious, they are thrown into boiling water, dying an agonizing death and cooking the skin slightly. And then they are bled out, sometimes when hanging, where cuts are made to an artery or organ to eliminate any unwanted gamey odor. Fresh flesh has a pungent smell when there is any remaining blood. Because customers generally prefer their meat without blood, the killing process more often than not involves torture to cause more injuries, not allowing the dog to bleed out more easily but adhering to the prevailing myth that the greater the terror experienced the tastier and more tender the meat. Customers at markets will often ask for their dog to be beaten, ensuring there is no blood, and allowing for torture for the price of a tasty meal. The majority of big dogs are hanged and smaller dogs are very often boiled alive for soup. Dogs are also hanged and beaten to death by individuals who do their own killing, which is a common occurrence in the countryside. After the slaughtering, there is the removal of fur, which is where the dog is dumped into a rotating drum, which whirls and churns madly like a dryer. There are always strands of hair remaining in the spinning pot. And finally, after fur removal, a blowtorch is used to scorch the skin on a raised grill, tenderizing the meat.
Dogs who are not sold, the leftovers, often go to pet shops, pet auctions, other farms, or restaurants. Purebred dogs, and old and sick dogs, i.e., “less merchantable quality” dogs from purebred breeding farms are sent to the slaughterhouse for meat. Any dog—big, small, mixed, and purebred—are not only all the same, deconstructing the idea that there are dogs for meat and dogs for companions, but also are everywhere up for grabs.
It appears that the South Korean government benefits from dog farms, with all of the leftovers that would normally be thrown away and disposed of properly are instead donated to the dog meat industry and fed to dogs for free. The government, therefore, doesn’t have to get rid of the waste, saving money.