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Animal activist wages hunger strike against sale of zoo animals

AJ Garcia fasting outside the Seoul Mayor's residence and explaining why he is doing it to two tourists
James Hyams
Written by James Hyams

An animal activist is fasting and camping outside Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon’s house in Anguk, Seoul in protest of the sale of “surplus” zoo animals in the capital city to a slaughter house.

President of Coexistance of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) AJ Garcia has fasted for nine days so far and been sleeping on the bitumen a few meters from Mayor Park’s garage.

CARE presented evidence to the government that Seoul Zoo, which is run by government staff, has been breeding excess animals and selling them for slaughter allegedly for the last decade.

“The zoo makes money three ways: from the taxpayers, from the events, and from selling animals,” Garcia said.

So far nothing has been done.

“We’ve used every tool available to us to try to get some kind of action plan to fix this kind of thing,” Garcia said. “We decided to take this to the next level – a fasting protest has never been done before in Korea.”

The cold, rain, hunger, and the constant noise of the police and security guarding the mayor’s house prevented Garcia from sleeping well for the first three nights.

During the interview, Garcia’s eyes are bloodshot, he is weak, lacks energy, and is craving food.

People periodically stop and talk with Garcia about the several protest signs he holds or are perched around him.

A European tourist stops and asks what his protest is about.

“The Seoul City Zoo is run by the government and paid for by taxpayers’ money,” he says to the lady and her group. “For ten years they have been making a profit by selling animals for slaughter.”

The tourist replies, “That is not okay. You’d think they’d die from natural causes.”

International tourists stop and chat to Garcia about this matter every day with some taking photos and film to share on social media.

They are surprised that the mayor won’t give Garcia five minutes of his time.

Mayor Park completely ignores Garcia every time he leaves his house whereas Ms Park returns Garcia’s bows and acknowledges his presence but has not yet spoken with him.

Many local residents support Garcia’s protest and the message he wants to deliver to the mayor.

“They bring me water, other things to drink, blankets, battery chargers for my phone, which is really nice. This morning, at about 3am in the morning, the newspaper delivery man put a bag down containing honey water and soy milk.”

Despite this, there are residents who despise Garcia’s presence.

One local resident confronted Garcia.

“There is nothing wrong with animals at the zoo being sold to slaughterhouses for meat. This is the mayor’s personal house – he needs his privacy,” the elderly man said politely in Korean.

Garcia responded to the man’s concerns outlining that they had met with government officials who have not acted on this and CARE has sent letters to appropriate officials, which have been ignored.

During this humble exchange four police officers were present outside the mayor’s house and three security men were inside the mayor’s house.

“It’s such a waste of resources, right? There are better things for them to be doing,” Garcia said.

Protesting outside the mayor’s residence was their last resort to get the zoo to stop intentionally breeding surplus animals for slaughter.

Garcia said he will stay outside the mayor’s house and continue to fast as long as it is physically possible or until the mayor agrees to take action against Seoul City Zoo.



About the author

James Hyams

James Hyams

James Hyams juggles several careers including being a journalist and a social worker. James has an avid interest in 'telling it as it is', exposing matters of public interest, and reviving investigative journalism in the new digital era. Testimony to this is his thesis titled: “U.S. Government secrecy and the withering watchdog: Is WikiLeaks the answer?”

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