An international animal welfare agency’s move to demonstrate the possibility of dog farmers in South Korea transitioning into ethical industries has taken a blow with a farmer caught with dogs on his property again.
Humane Society International (HSI) announced in January that dog farmer Jung Moon-suk surrendered all 23 of his dogs in exchange for $2,500 so that he can start a blueberry business on the land where he kept the dogs.
Jung, however, told the Korea Observer that HSI and media provided the public inaccurate information about his farm and his agreement with HSI.
“I was already running a blueberry farm. I wasn’t running a dog farm,” Jung said.
“I had many dogs simply because I like animals and some of my dogs had puppies. I told them I would keep some.”
The farmer disputed that he was raising dogs for meat saying he used to raise dogs to protect his property and he would give puppies to neighbors.
HSI spokesperson Lola Webber said Jung told her that he would sell some of the dogs to local restaurants.
When reporters of The Korea Observer visited Jung’s farm last week, they found 10 dogs and two cats on his farm despite the agreement with HSI not to farm dogs.
Two cats and four of these dogs were caged. Another three dogs were chained to a pole under an enclosure and the remains of whole raw chickens could be seen around the dogs.
Three more dogs were chained up near the blueberry enclosure.
Jung is also raising many chickens, roosters, a duck, bush turkey, and a goat all living under cruel conditions either on a short chain or caged most without sanitary food or water.
“It is definitely concerning that he would have that number of dogs there,” HSI staff Adam Parascondola said.
HSI did not publicize the farmer had other livestock or that the farmer kept an additional “pet” Samoyed, which was housed in a small, restrictive cage when The Korea Observer was there.
“The dog you are calling a Samoyed was not in a cage when we were there,” Adam said.
He admits that HSI knew Jung had been running a blueberry farm.
“He did already have the blueberry farm, there is no doubt about that,” Adam said.
In January, HSI said in a press statement that “As part of the plan, HSI secured an agreement with him to stop raising dogs for food and move permanently to growing crops as a more humane way to make a living.”
HSI visited Jung’s farm in May to see how the farmer was going.
“He had the cats in May in a cage and they were kittens at the time. Our thought at that time was that when they are old enough he would let them out of the cage. We have concerns about him having cats in cages,” Adam said.
BK Zang, director of Animal Travel Agency and HSI’s driver when they were in Korea earlier this year, argues that HSI could not immediately help a dog farmer in Hongseong to surrender some 200 dogs, even after he expressed his intent to do so to HSI.
HSI returned to the Hongseong farm earlier this month and shut down the farm rescuing 103 dogs, which are now available for adoption in the U.S.
BK claims that “HSI came to Korea just for business, rather than to rescue animals.”
One of the most circulated claims is that HSI only rescues these dogs from South Korea to fundraise, a claim that HSI and its staff dispute.
HSI raised $9,289,762 last financial year according to information provided by independent NGO www.give.org.
That figure is not split into specific programs such as saving dogs in South Korea, China and Vietnam.
It cost nearly $85,000 for HSI to rescue, transport, provide healthcare, re-train and re-home 57 dogs during a rescue earlier this year.
“Humane Society International has invested hugely in this project and associated campaign- far more than has been fundraised,” Adam said.
BK is not convinced saying HSI should be doing more in Korea.
“Given that they raised money with Korean dogs, they should do something about dogs in Korea,” he said.
BK also alleges HSI has no legal rights over how Jung’s “personal” dogs are raised.
“Whether they increase in numbers, there is nothing [HSI] can do,” BK said. “There is no way you can prove that they are being raised for dog meat.”
BK believes that most the dogs will probably be at the farm until next summer.
“He will likely select the female dog. The purpose of that is for breeding. After one year they are likely to be sold off to butchers,” he said.
Lola Webber, cofounder of the Change For Animals Foundations co-founder and consultant of Humane Society International, argues that HSI cannot presume that Jung is raising the dogs for meat.
“I imagine the chances are that up at the blueberry farm, which is relatively isolated, that they are guard dogs,” Lola said.
“We are planning to go there and investigate it further and to find out what the dogs are there for and under what conditions they are being kept,” she added.
Adam said the January rescue was the first time they compensated a farmer in South Korea to transition into ethical farming and they have now refined the new contracts with other farmers.
He acknowledged that the written contract with Jung is limited.
“This is a learning process for us and our overall contracts and approaches have become more clamped down.”
HSI has since worked with another two dog farmers to transition them out of the dog farm industry. In this process they saved a total of 183 dogs from the farms.
HSI claims that it has been working consistently alongside the second former dog farmer where HSI rescued 57 dogs and closed his farm.
They have included the farmer in meetings, visiting him each time they are in Korea, and engaging with him on discussion planning regarding the campaign against the dog meat industry.
HSI also intend to work inclusively with the third former dog farmer in Hongseong where they recently rescued 103 of his dogs and shut down his farm.
Adam said HSI has decided not to work with farmers who are keeping other animals, have engaged a local solicitor firm to follow up on future breach of contracts, and will be staying in contact with farmers to ensure they are supported into their new areas of work.
A HSI spokesperson said they would not work in the industry in South Korea if they thought they could not have an ongoing impact on the dog meat industry.
“By creating models for change by closing dog farms and supporting the implementation of humane alternative businesses, we can develop a realistic and economically-viable proposal to present to the Korean public and government to support a phase-out plan for the dog meat industry.”
However, Choi Young-in, secretary general of the Korea Dog Meat Farmers Association, claims that HSI’s campaigning is completely ineffective, given that dog meat farming has grown into a multibillion dollar industry in South Korea with about 100,000 farms raising some 2.5 million dogs.