HSI Conducts Biggest Ever Rescue of Dogs From the Meat Trade in South Korea

By on February 23, 2016 with 18 Comments

The worst form of dog abuse in the world – in raw numbers and intensity of suffering – is flourishing in South Korea. In that industrialized nation, there are 17,000 dog meat farms operating mainly in rural enclaves and responsible for a scale of exploitation that far exceeds even the puppy mill industry in the United States.

But through the work of Humane Society International, we are starting to chip away at the problem, beginning the long process of shrinking the industry, and providing a new and better ending for these dogs.

Last week, our Animal Rescue Team began the shutdown of yet another dog meat farm in Korea – turning around the fortunes of 270 dogs slated for slaughter.

It was a bitingly cold day when our team reached the farm located on a hill in a remote, rural area of South Korea called Wonju. “The smell hit us hard when we entered the plastic-covered metal enclosures where the dogs were housed,” said Kelly O’Meara, HSI’s director of companion animals and engagement. “The sound of the dogs barking was almost deafening.” In the long rows of raised, cold, metal cages, with no cover from the frigid temperatures that dipped into the single digits during our rescuers’ visit, were huskies, golden retrievers, mastiff mixes, and some small breeds, like maltese mixes. Many were puppies, and a number of dogs were suffering from health conditions ranging from malnutrition to eye infections. Beneath the dogs’ cages, piles of feces had accumulated for several months.

The dogs on the meat farm were living In long rows of raised, cold, metal cages, with no cover from the frigid temperatures that dipped into the single digits during our rescuers’ visit.

The dogs on the meat farm were living In long rows of raised, cold, metal cages, with no cover from the frigid temperatures that dipped into the single digits during our rescuers’ visit. Photo by Frank Loftus/HSI

Despite their miserable lives, most of the dogs were surprisingly friendly and curious and eager for human attention. But some were scared too, and retreated to the back of their cages, staring downwards to avoid eye contact. “These dogs received little to no care or human interaction, so our presence was likely both exciting and terrifying for them,” Kelly said.

The world’s eyes are increasingly set on South Korea, the venue of the Winter Olympics in 2018, and  we believe this is the right time to make a push to end the dog meat trade there once and for all. South Korea is one of a handful of Asian countries where dogs are consumed, but it is the only one that intensively raises dogs on meat farms. Wonju is in the same province where the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held.

HSI has been working directly with dog meat farmers to help them to transition into humane trades. This is our fifth dog meat farm closure since last year, and our largest one so far. To date, our work has helped more than 500 dogs from the Korean dog meat trade, and most of the dogs we have transported here to the United States have found loving homes in the United States. Just as significant, we are winning support from dog meat industry workers and the Korean public who want an end to this gruesome business. Our next steps include a mass public awareness campaign, to dispel the widely held belief in South Korea that there is a difference between a “pet” dog and a “meat” dog. A majority of Koreans do not eat dogs, and increasingly Koreans are welcoming dogs into their homes as pets.

A dog rescued from the Wonju dog meat farm at the San Francisco SPCA.

A dog rescued from the Wonju dog meat farm at the San Francisco SPCA. Photo by San Francisco SPCA

But dog meat is not a problem limited to South Korea; we are fighting this practice across other parts of Asia, including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. In China, we work with and support our local partner groups in rescuing and caring for dogs rescued from trucks on their way to various slaughterhouses in the country. To date, more than 10,000 dogs have been spared from being butchered and skinned and cooked, thanks to our efforts. We target and push for the end of cruel dog meat festivals, such as the well-known Yulin festival held annually. In Vietnam, we have worked with the government to put in place a ban on cross-border trade of dogs from Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos into the country.

Meanwhile, 55 of the 270 latest rescues from the Wonju meat farm are on the verge of beginning new lives drastically different from their old ones: we have transported them to the United States, where they will have the opportunity to find homes through two of our Emergency Placement Partners – the San Francisco SPCA and San Diego Humane Society. The remaining dogs will arrive here in March and April, and HSI will set up an emergency temporary shelter in the Northeast to care for them before they are placed with various Emergency Placement Partners in the region. Three dogs have been transported to Canada for placement through our HSI Canada office.

But millions of dogs on meat farms in Korea still need our help. An estimated 2.5 million dogs are consumed annually in the country, and there are thousands of farms throughout the country ranging in size from 50 dogs to over 1,000. For confined, shivering dogs in South Korea, and for dogs in other countries caught up in the meat trade, it’s a fight we must win.

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals, Humane Society International

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  1. David Bernazani says:

    Raising dogs like farm animals on factory farms– confined to cages and denied any human affection– whether for dog meat or on puppy mills, is the ultimate betrayal. Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to be loyal companions to humans, and literally need that bond as much as they need food or shelter. To lock them away is beyond cruel; it’s a break of faith, a betrayal of our responsibility as the ones who created them to treat them as they were meant to be.
    Dog meat farms and puppy mills have no place in any decent society. The sooner they’re a part of history the better, and good riddance.

    • Cheryl Swindle says:

      Amen David. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • Ashley Elliott says:

      To treat farm animals in this way is also a betrayal.

    • Dani Trickett says:

      Awesome response it blows my mind to think their are 17,000 farms alone just in this part of Korea and then the rest….to think they live their lives day in day out like this is incomprehensible and then to meet a gruesome ending absolutely heartbreaking 😔

  2. James Hyams says:

    Where did you get the figure that there are 17,000 dog meat farms in South Korea? We have a very different figure……..

  3. Lisa Clesi says:

    Awesome job, hope to see all of them shut down soon. Keep up the fight!

  4. Lynn Garza says:

    I follow these stories, share them ( wear my Soi Dog tank top ! ) I wish there were MORE I could do . Would love to be there physically to help, hands on .
    Thank you for ALL you do . I’ll keep up my end .

    • Susan Nichelson says:

      Lynn, I follow Soi Dog, too! They do such good things, and it would be so neat to help out, too. I hope this horrendous habit can be haulted. These sweet animals have done nothing to deserve this treatment, and all they want us love. I pray they can keep up on things!

  5. Gail Powell says:

    I pray that we can eventually end this. Even before they are horribly tortured for belief that their meat will be much better, they endure a terrible life, well I say life, what I really meant was miserable existence. It’s a very sad thing. One which I hope will a thing of the past,

  6. Barbara says:

    Many many years ago my father (God rest his soul) was in the navy and did a stint in the Pilipines. He told me that he was invited to a mans house for dinner that was a friend to another one of his mates. They took him in the back yard and there were 5 or 6 different dogs. He said the dogs were very healthy and friendly and the man said pick one out. My father thought the man was offering him a dog. He explained that he couldn’t take one as they were not allowed on the ship. The man laughed at him and said no you no take on ship. So my father said oh you want me to play with one. the man said no pick one out for dinner. My father was horrified and said no I will not and thank you for your hospitality but i am leaving.
    I will never forget that and he said he had all he could do not to let the dogs free.
    It is hard when you are in another country and the laws are different. Whether we like it or not they had a right to do that. Also my father told the man that he would rather have a burger and when the man found out we eat cows he was horrified so it does work both ways.
    personally anything that has a face makes me sad to eat.

  7. Jennifer Lindberg says:

    Thank you for all that you do. I also pray that someday this will be a thing of the past and all dogs will have the love and respect that they deserve as intelligent, loving and loyal beings.

  8. D says:


  9. A.B. says:

    I would love one of these dogs. Have you tried contacting the Connecticut Humane Society to help take some of these dogs? They have an awesome facility and a clinic as well. Thank you for all you do to help these animals..I will continue to follow your posts and donate to this cause.
    If they place some of the dogs in the Northeast I will most definitely try to adopt one .

  10. Robyne Zuendel says:

    Puppy mills must be shut down, they should not suffer for human ignorance. You know what money is not everything get a job you can be proud of this isn’t it!!!!

  11. Dianne redd says:

    Those cowards are too lazy to raise other animals as meat like the rest of the world does…cowards pick on innocence…

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