For nearly 15 years, In Defense of Animals has been instrumental in exposing the dog and cat meat trade in South Korea. Our Dog Meat campaign works through political, educational, awareness and action, to eliminate the market for dog meat in South Korea, and ensure dogs all over the world are seen as loving and protected companion animals and not raised as food. Now we work to stamp out the trade throughout the world.
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. They are the victims of the dog and cat meat industry, with its deliberate and indefensible cruelty, and the South Korean government 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 versus 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, told In Defense of Animals, “there are no legal grounds for the practice of eating dogs in Korea. A vacuum exists in our legal framework.” The Ministry does not recognize dog meat as legal while the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 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 for human consumption. This $200 million dollar-a-year industry extinguishes the lives of approximately two and a half million dogs a year for bosingtang, dog meat stew or gae soju, stamina drink containing dog meat and about 100,000 cats, for goyanggi soju, a thick health tonic.
At the end of brief and miserable lives, farmers and butchers kill animals in the most horrific fashion, and 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.
In Defense of Animals 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 “meat dogs” and animal companions - and the great lie inherent to the South Korean dog meat trade is that only a certain type of dog is eaten - the yellow mixed dogs known as Nureongi or Jindo (who until recently could be seen all over the Moran Market, stuffed into cages.) This is despite the Jindo being named South Korea’s 53rd Natural Treasure, and the country’s national breed. But the truth is that any dog can and does end up in the meat trade: former animal companions; purebreds including Cocker Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Schnauzers, Malteses, Beagles, and more; dogs from puppy mills and shelters; and dogs sold at closed dog auctions; and Jindos who fail to pass the Jindo Preservation Ordinance. All of these dogs are eaten as meat or gaesoju or “health” food or boshintang as dog meat soup.
While the self-proclaimed Dr. Dog Meat lays claim that dog meat is the single greatest health food in South Korea, consumers of dog meat may well 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.
In Defense of Animals is dedicated to the tens of millions of dogs and cats who have suffered and died in this unspeakable industry of horror.
An estimated 10 million dogs are slaughtered and eaten every year in China, making it the biggest consumer of dog meat in Asia. Unlike Korea, where dog breeding farms exist openly, most of the dogs for consumption are either stray or stolen companions. There are some known “facilities” but together they are not large enough to support the yearly consumption. Dogs are often captured by poisoned darts or hooked onto a noose line by a moving truck or van. These stolen dogs are crammed inside wire cages and transported for days while being exposed to extreme weather conditions. Often injured and sick with disease during transportation, some dogs die of starvation, injuries, or suffocation before they reach their destination. Those lucky enough to survive succumb to a horrible torturous death.
China is a vast country with a huge population. It is estimated that only 20 percent are dog meat consumers limited to certain regions. China currently has no animal-welfare laws; however, animal welfare and rights is a growing topic of interest since its first introduction around the 1990s. Though China has no animal protection laws, China’s food safety regulations ban the processing, selling and serving of products made from diseased animals. In addition, China’s animal transport laws require each dog to carry a certificate of origin. Homegrown activists and NGOs use these laws as the key to stopping the dog meat trade. They alert the proper authorities of the truck’s movement and after negotiations, the dogs are relinquished to these organizations if no certification is provided, which many don’t.
The Chinese dog meat industry has come to global mainstream last year in no small part to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival with its horrific images of tortured and slaughtered dogs splattered across social media. This so-called festival is a 10-day event held in June during the summer solstice where an estimated 10,000 dogs are slaughtered and consumed. In 2016, millions of activists globally voiced their opinions against this cruel festival and for the government to intervene and end this forever.
In Defense of Animals is working tirelessly to end this festival and the cruel dog and cat meat trade in China, South Korea, and throughout the world.