South Korean dog slaughterhouses are the unholiest of places. There is no registration for these frightening hellholes, so, according to a report commissioned by Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA), the killing is mostly carried out in remote areas in places specializing in dog slaughter or performed on a mass scale at goat slaughterhouses. Dog farms, restaurants that serve dog meat, and gaesoju (dog broth or so-called stamina food) sellers slaughter the number of dogs they need. As stated in South Korea’s Livestock Safety Management Act, slaughterhouses must slaughter animals they are registered to handle but dogs are not subject to slaughter under this law.

At goat slaughterhouses, there is no legal basis for regulation, but the South Korean government continues to allow the slaughter of dogs at goat slaughterhouses. And because no slaughterhouse is registered for dogs, they are therefore killed without proper waste management set forth by the Act on Management and Use of Animal (Livestock) Excrement  clearly polluting the surrounding environment. Just as alarming is the blatant lack supervision of whether or not diseased dogs are being slaughtered, and whether the preservation, distribution, and delivery process is deemed safe.

According to a television program that aired in South Korea, in 2011, “South Korea’s Dangerous Health Food—Inconvenient Truth About Dog Meat,” physician Dr. PD Kim, said: “Currently, there is no law regulating the industry of dog slaughter, so the majority of dog slaughterhouses do not carry proper sanitary equipment.” The undercover team visited many slaughterhouses and consistently found that the unhygienic conditions were appalling. Such sites were common: swarms of flies around dead dogs lying on the filthy worktables; splattered stains of blood and bodily fluids from the slaughtering process covering the walls; butchers not wearing proper sanitary uniforms, and dogs being processed on dirty cement floors.

Inside a slaughterhouse hidden in a residential area of Seoul, there were eight dogs—the condemned, on their last day in this dirty and desolate and cramped pit, enveloped in an eerie darkness, as dark as a prison. They were huddled together in a pile on a cold and unforgiving slab of cement, gripped with fear, faces looming out of the black depths, eyes staring out, no food or water anywhere, soon to be electrocuted or hanged once the sun rises, becoming meat for nearby restaurants. One of the dogs was coughing, seemingly racked with pain. A few others tried to hide behind the pile, crouching in against the back wall, trembling uncontrollably.  Their misery was mostly silent, even when they heard whispers of encouragement. When gentle hands approached to try and move them, they scattered nervously, probably sensing that this was the ghastly end. But on this day, they evaded their executioners, a reprieve from ending up in the refrigerator with the other hanging dogs. Little goats were hanging in the other refrigerator. The implements of killing were in plain view—the blowtorch used for burning the dogs’ hair off, the metal chain for hanging the dogs by the neck, the electric shock probe for electrocution, and the rotating drum for removing of all the remaining fur.

They were instead ushered out as fast as they would allow (a few were nearly frozen in terror as well as very weak and therefore carried) and then lifted into the awaiting van and into the world of the living.  The sun was just coming up.

The dogs were immediately driven to a veterinary hospital at some distance, where, in the next few weeks, they all received intensive medical treatment for canine distemper (measles) and two for heartworm disease. All of them had yellow nasal mucus, little or no appetite, loose stool or diarrhea; some were coughing, had asthenia, bloody stools, and convulsions; a few were in terrible pain. Eight very diseased dogs, some of whom didn’t make it, destined for restaurants or perhaps, in a ridiculous irony, for health food stores sold as dog liquor or gaesoju, a broth made of dog meat and mixed with Asian herbs, with its alleged miraculous medicinal properties for overall health—dogs plagued by illness eaten for good health.

Out of this “darkness visible,” or what Milton called Hell, the surviving dogs were given names: Hwang-Bo, Hocheong aka Hopi, Charles, Fox, and Yong-Jeon. As we did for the ones who were gone: Hite, Umsal, and Padu (RIP).

After treatment and recovery, funded by IDA, with Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth’s (CARE) contribution and crucial assistance, they stayed at CARE’s shelter, where the caretakers lavished them with attention. Once at death’s door, their lives were transformed.