Officials in the city of Seongnam today announced that they will permanently shutter the dog meat section of Moran Market, South Korea’s largest dog meat market. It is by far the biggest single blow ever against the dog meat trade in the country, and with a local government leading the charge, it’s a new front in the war against the systematic exploitation of dogs for their meat.
Humane Society International has been hard at work in South Korea to close down dog meat farms and to help farmers transition to more humane businesses, and the atmosphere we’ve created around the trade contributed to this game-changing announcement.
According to The Korea Herald, which reported the news, under an agreement between the Seongnam city government and a vendors’ association that represents the market’s 22 dog meat dealers, the dog meat vendors will start removing slaughter facilities and dog cages beginning next week and will completely move them out by early May. The city will provide financial support for them to refurbish their shops for new businesses — a model very similar to the one HSI has been using to help transition dog meat farmers out of the trade.
This is a hugely consequential development because of the sheer numbers of animals involved. Moran supplies a third of the dog meat consumed in Korea, and it is estimated that tens of thousands of dogs are sold either dead or alive at the market each year. HSI teams had primed the issue with dog meat vendors, but this action from the city was unexpected and extraordinary in its own right.
In South Korea, there is a widely-held dual perception of dogs — “meat dogs” are for consumption, and “pet dogs” are for companionship. At present, many Koreans do not consider “meat dogs” adoptable, but through HSI’s program, we are working to change that by having each rescued dog act as an ambassador for the many still suffering on farms. We are showing South Korea and the rest of the world that a dog is a dog – each one worthy of compassion and respect and protection from cruelty.
The closing of the Moran dog meat market affirms the soundness of our model of shutting down the farms by giving the farmers an alternative form of employment. Frankly, with thousands of dog meat farms in the country, we knew that we could not go farm by farm and achieve the result. We anticipated that our hands-on work, combined with the weight of our argument, would apply pressure for systemic change, and that local governments would step in and deliver results. We’re encouraged to see that is beginning to happen.
There is growing recognition that the dog meat trade is socially unpalatable in a society where pet ownership and animal protection values are ascendant. With the Winter Olympics planned for South Korea for 2018, this is a key leverage point for the global community. This proud and successful country can shed this industry and help transition farmers to other lucrative and more humane businesses.
The meat market itself is a heartbreaking sight: dogs are confined in cages for customers to choose, and then they are openly slaughtered using cruel methods like electrocution, hanging, or beating. Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, quoting Mahatma Gandhi, told The Korea Herald: “Seongnam City will take the initiative to transform South Korea’s image since ‘the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’”