Last week, South Korean authorities made history by closing down Taepyeong, the country’s largest dog slaughterhouse. The slaughterhouse had been the main facility used for the notorious Moran dog meat market for generations, and thousands of dogs were killed there brutally by electrocution each year. The city council of Seongnam, where the slaughterhouse was located, has announced it will build a community park on the land, instead.
Humane Society International/Korea, along with our partners Korea Animal Rights Advocates and the Korean Animal Welfare Association, were asked by Seongnam City to be on site and available to help in case any dogs were found there before the buildings were demolished. But with heavy hearts our crew was able to confirm that no live dogs were left inside, just the eerie silence of vast, empty cages and disturbing visual reminders of the horrors animals had endured there for years. Our campaigners saw a pile of dead dogs on the floor. They also found the electrocution equipment used to kill thousands of dogs, knives, and de-hairing machines.
Still, as Nara Kim, HSI/Korea’s dog meat campaigner, observed, “this really feels like a landmark moment in the demise of the dog meat industry in South Korea, and sends the clear message that the dog meat industry is increasingly unwelcome in Korean society.”
Five of the six structures at the Taepyeong slaughtering complex have already been bulldozed. Permission to destroy the sixth building was not secured in time for the closure but authorities will remove and destroy all of its cages and equipment so that it is no longer operational. The plan to build a community park where this slaughterhouse once stood is welcome news to local residents who came out to thank us and the demolition teams. They had endured years of living next to the slaughterhouse and listening daily to the howls of frightened dogs in pain. They were clearly delighted to see it close.
This is also wonderful news for us here at HSI. For nearly four years now, we have been on the ground in Korea, working relentlessly to end the dog meat trade. Through public awareness campaigns, dog meat farm closures exposing the suffering behind the trade, and government lobbying for a ban on the industry, we have kept the global spotlight riveted on this issue, including during the Winter Olympics earlier this year in Pyeongchang.
Some of our most significant – and visible – successes have involved the closure of dog meat farms. To date, we have closed 13 dog meat farms, helping the farmers transition to more humane livelihoods like growing mushrooms or water parsley. We have transported nearly 1,600 dogs, who were fated for the butcher’s block, out of South Korea and to shelter and rescue partners in countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, for a chance at a new life as a beloved companion.
There are thousands of dog meat farms in Korea, and while HSI cannot close them all, we are, through our work, providing the government with a blueprint for the permanent phase-out and ban of the industry.
Most Koreans don’t regularly eat dog meat, especially the younger generations who see dogs as pets rather than food. A survey by Gallup Korea conducted in June 2018 showed that 70 percent of South Koreans say they will not eat dog meat in future. There are other signs that Koreans are feeling increasingly ill at ease with the industry:
- In April this year, Incheon District Court in Bucheon fined a farmer under the Animal Protection Act for unlawful animal slaughter, ruling that meat consumption was not a legal justification to kill dogs.
- In August, Seoul City announced there will be no more dog slaughterhouses at Kyungdong Market in Dongdaemun from next year.
- President Moon Jae-In’s administration pledged to consider removing dogs and cats from the legal definition of livestock.
- In September a Supreme Court struck down a lower court decision to allow dog electrocution, the favored method of the dog meat trade, saying the method is “too cruel.”
Recently we teamed up with Korea Animal Rights Advocates to present a petition to South Korea’s president, signed by one million Koreans and people worldwide, calling for an end to the dog meat trade. With the closure of the country’s largest dog meat slaughterhouse the writing is on the wall: it’s time to end this brutal industry once and for all.