The living conditions remind me of American puppy mills – varying breeds of dogs, packed into wire cages often lifted off the ground, fetid water in bowls, and a look of doom and sadness in their eyes.
But it’s a different type of dog-abuse industry, and it’s not in the United States. It’s a dog-meat farm in South Korea. And all weekend long and into next week, we’ll be there working to save and rescue as many dogs as we can.
Our Humane Society International (HSI) team is on the ground in South Korea, participating in an animal rescue and helping a dog-meat farmer transition out of this ugly trade.
It’s the third dog-meat farm we are shutting down this year, taking the dogs away from this hell and, in a flash, turning their lives around.
When our team members first saw the dogs, the animals appeared terrified. Some dogs cowered in their cages, frightened. But, as Kelly O’Meara, HSI’s director of companion animals and engagement said, “Once they realized we weren’t there to hurt them, their tails started wagging, eager for the slightest show of affection.”We’ll take more than 100 dogs from this farm when we’re through, including mastiffs, spaniel mixes, and Chihuahuas, all destined for the butcher’s block. They’ll soon be in the United States, in several rounds of transport, and then on their way to loving homes with the help of our amazing Emergency Placement Partners.
This rescue is part of our ongoing work to end the dog meat trade in South Korea and raise awareness among Koreans – who increasingly view the dog meat trade as shameful. We are working as catalysts to effect a change in mindset so that the people of that great nation see animals as companions rather than cuts of meat.
While we’ve had an auspicious and uplifting beginning, we have a long way to travel. There are an estimated two million dogs bred in this industry – not quite as large as our U.S. puppy mill industry, but not that far off from it (nearly two thousand farms).In this latest intervention, as we’ve done in the past, HSI found a solution for the farmer. He’s going into the rice business now, with our help. We’re finding that many of the people involved in the trade are ready for this transition, especially because even their loved ones and others in their local communities realize there’s something wrong with this sort of business.
“In the future, I hope other farmers will be given this opportunity where they can change to different businesses,” Mr. Kim, the farmer, told us. He also told us he hopes that more dogs find homes as companion animals. We hope so too, and that’s why we’ve taken on the dog meat trade with energy in the last few months, and will continue to work hard against it.
Even in our short time focusing on this problem, we are seeing encouraging indicators. For instance, the BBC reports that the number of restaurants in Seoul that serve dog meat has dropped by more than half—a reaction no doubt to the rising sentiment against dog meat.
In China and several other Asian nations, most dogs are stolen from the streets, but in South Korea, they are bred in confinement on farms.
But no matter how they get to the table, it all must end. We are out to eliminate this industry in its entirety. We thank you for your support in making these rescues happen and we will continue to need your help to get there. We know you agree that it should be among our most important goals. We’re ramping up our efforts on this front in collaboration with several new partners, including the producer of an important new film on the dog meat trade that we expect will bring its cruelties to an even larger worldwide audience.