If you have eaten dog meat in Korea there is a chance it was once a prized pet. The Change For Animals Foundations co-founder and Humane Society International consultant Lola Webber said that many former pets end up in a slaughter house.
“Dogs [are] being sourced from pounds, pet auctions and even surrendered pets to supplement those dogs raised on farms, and any breed or “type” of dog can be slaughtered for human consumption.”
A report by the Co-existence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) show that pet dog breeds are being slaughtered for human consumption across most of South Korea.
Research by the Korea Observer have revealed several pet breeds caged in slaughterhouses and in dog farms including Cocker Spaniels, Border Collies, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Greyhounds, Beagles, Shih Tzus, Shar Peis, Lhasa Apsos, and other mixed breeds.
Investigations so far indicate dog farms participating in slaughtering former pet dogs are located in Ansung – Gyeongi Province, Dangjin – South Chungheong Province, Goseong – Gangwon Province, Uijeongbu – Gyeongi Province, Gosung – Kangwon Province and Jeju Island.
CARE’s report also repeatedly demonstrates that dog farmers and pet auction houses treat all dogs as food awaiting slaughter regardless of whether they were once a pet.
In one interview at a pet auction house the owner told an undercover CARE personnel that hundreds of the dogs they sell go to dog farms.
“Sixty to seventy percent are dog meat deals. We sell big dogs like Retrievers as meat dogs. The price differs depending upon the season but now they’re over 200,000 Korean won,” the owner said.
Another dog farmer, who used to be an auction house owner, admitted slaughtering and eating all breeds of dogs.
“Huskies and Malamutes are cheaper than Dosa dogs and are good as dog meat,” the farmer said.
A pet auction house in Cheonan houses around 200 dogs including Huskies, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, and Grey Hounds.
“This is the biggest meat auction market in South Korea. Ninety percent of the sales here are for meat,” the owner said.
Representatives of the Port Development Division in Jeju told CREATE that “Dogs are never transported to the mainland by boat.”
This is contradicted by the practice of a dog farmer in Jeju Island who has around 200 dogs.
“I move dogs to the mainland every five days. Many dogs die in the summer during transport,” the farmer said.
When transporting the dogs, it is common practice for farmers to squash as many live dogs into one cage as possible.
Sometimes dogs are stacked on top of each other and do not have enough room to stand up.
The prevailing opinion among Koreans is that there are specific dogs bred as livestock for harvesting dog meat. These breeds are Dosa (Mastiff), the Yellow Dog, the White dog, the Jindo mix, and the Balbari.
Most Koreans are unaware that pet dog breeds are included with livestock breeds and sent for slaughter.
Moran Market – one place to buy dog meat
At the Moran market, big signs that advertise “yellow” dogs are hung over endless rows of caged dogs.
The air is filled with a putrid stench – a composition of dog faeces and burnt hair.
The dogs lay in their cages. Some of the dogs at the market will have travelled for over five hours from the farms in these overloaded cages with no rest, food or water. This is the last journey they will make.
The dogs will live at the market until they are selected by a consumer. The “show” cages are crowded but the dogs seem to choose to huddle together – perhaps for warmth, or comfort, or both. Some dogs move as the trader sprays water into the cage to wash away faeces, others just lie there. They look depressed and withdrawn.
As the co-founder of the Change For Animals Foundation Lola Weber walks past the cages, a couple of the puppies come over to the bars. They lick their lips and anxiously wag their tails. They will live short lives either in this market or on a dog farm, eventually being slaughtered for food.
The hard work by animal rights charities in this area have paid off. The Seongnam city government announced last year it would turn the Moran Market dog slaughter site into a park by early 2017.
This, however, is only a small success in a very cruel industry.
Dog Farming and Slaughtering
The Korean Statistics Information Service includes dog farming in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Census. In 2010 they reported 892,820 dogs in 100,191 farms.
Dog farming is not well regulated and operates largely in a legal grey area.
While some farmers slaughter dogs on site, others provide live dogs to those who supply markets, slaughterhouses and health stores offering gaesoju (dog “tonic” or “juice”).
“The majority of dogs are slaughtered by electrocution. However, we have evidence of dogs being hung and beaten over the head with a metal pipe (for stunning) before being bled out,” Webber said.
The life of a dog raised on a dog meat farm is miserable.
“They are never shown any compassion, and there is a general indifference to their sentience. Even their most basic needs are never met,” Webber said.
While in Gupo Market, Busan, Webber saw many dogs being selected by customers.
“[Dogs were] dragged screaming to the back of the shop where they were either hung or electrocuted,” Webber said.
“Hearing the noises those dogs made and watching them fight back with all their strength was beyond devastating.”
Whilst Article 7 of the Animal Protection Act does not explicitly prohibit the slaughter of dogs for food, it does prohibit killing animals in a brutal way, including hanging the animal by its neck.
“Dogs were being hung at specific slaughterhouses that ‘specialise’ in this method despite it being completely illegal,” Webber said.
Some dog farmers and slaughterhouses admit to hanging dogs to kill them. This includes the farms in Choongnam housing 150 dogs and in Choongbuk housing 200 dogs.
Two separate slaughterhouses in Incheon housing 150 dogs and 120 dogs respectively also admit hanging dogs is common practice. “Everyone in this area hangs,” they said.
A Goonsan slaughterhouse has around 400 dogs. They admit their preferred slaughter method is to electrocute the dog in the cage and then drain out the blood. “The dog is still alive while the blood drains out,” the butcher said.
Article 7 forbids killing the dogs in open areas such as on the street or in front of other animals of the same species.
“Dogs are often slaughtered under unsanitary conditions in front of other dogs,” Webber said after witnessing this several times in the Gupo and Moran Markets.
“The dog meat industry is brutal, which is why we are calling for an outright ban,” she added.
Dog meat riddled with bacteria
The Korean government has banned the mixing of antibiotics with animal feed on livestock farms in July 2011, recognizing the risk the indiscriminate use of antibiotics poses to both animal and human health in the form of antibiotic resistance.
Despite this ban, the practice continues.
The Research Institute of Public Health and Environment, Seoul Metropolitan Government, conducted quality control tests on dog meat from Moran market’s butcher shops, Gyungi Province. They found that the meat often carries potentially zoonotic bacteria such as staphylococcus, colon bacillus, and traces of antibiotics exceeding hazardous health standard limits.
“We have evidence of farmers resorting to the abuse and misuse of antibiotics and other drugs to control the outbreak of diseases, which are rife when large numbers of dogs are housed in close proximity under stressful and unhygienic conditions. Both of these pose a significant risk to human health,” Webber said.
Livestock animals that receive large doses of antibiotics can develop resistance to certain types of drugs. In turn, human consumers of meat and milk from such animals may not respond to available antibiotic treatments.
“Because the processing of dog meat is essentially unregulated, there are no official guidelines to guarantee untainted meat,” Webber said.
Humane Society International and Change For Animals Foundation have partnered to save dogs from slaughter.
They identified a farm in Ilsan run by Mr Jung to start their work. The dog farm was small-scale with 23 dogs being raised to sell to local restaurants to be slaughtered and sold as boshintang (dog meat soup) and gaesoju. Jung’s primary source of income is from blueberry farming. The dog farm is to supplement his income.
Jung agreed to surrender the dogs to Humane Society International in exchange for a small sum of money to expand his blueberry business onto the land where he kept the dogs.
“Under the agreement he would never again raise dogs or participate in the dog meat industry,” Webber said.
These dogs have been rescued in January and flown to Washington DC for adoption into American families.
“We have been inundated with offers for adoption of these dogs. We are currently reviewing potential adopters to find the very best homes for these dogs,” Webber said.
Humane Society International in collaboration with the Change For Animals Foundation will continue to work with dog farmers who no longer wish to be involved in this industry.
“We have met countless farmers who no longer want to participate in this industry and have expressed remorse towards, and compassion for, the dogs they farm.
“We will continue to offer assistance where we can,” Webber said.
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