Our Humane Society International team is in South Korea, closing down yet another dog meat farm and preparing to transport more than 90 dogs to the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Staff members on the ground describe this farm as smaller in size than some of the others we have closed, but no less horrible. There are rows of dogs in small, elevated wire cages with absolutely nothing to enrich their lives or give them any comfort. There is filth everywhere, underfoot and in the cages, and the dogs have no escape or respite from the smell and discomfort.
This is the 15th dog meat farm HSI has closed down since 2015, as part of a pioneering program that helps farmers transition out of this trade, which results in the brutal killing of hundreds of thousands of dogs each year. The farmer who owned this farm admitted that he has also sold puppies to dog fighters.
To date, we have transported more than 1,800 dogs, fated for the butcher’s block, out of South Korea. In time, they find their way to shelter and rescue partners in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, for a chance at a new life as a beloved companion.
There are many incredibly sweet dogs on this farm, including Boston terriers, golden retrievers, giant Mastiff mixes and everything in between. Despite their terrible circumstances, they are showing amazing resilience. Kelly O’Meara, HSI’s vice president for companion animals and engagement, tells me that the property erupts with barking when our team arrives, and all the dogs run to the front of the cages to get noticed. Among the dogs are three mama dogs with their puppies – mother dogs usually suffer the most because they not only have to provide for themselves but also for litter after litter of puppies they are forced to have.
One of the mama dogs, Storm, is a beautiful white Jindo with five very big, healthy, chubby and bouncy puppies who are living in the cage with her. But she is dangerously thin, with all her ribs protruding. Storm also has an open wound on her lower front leg.
Despite her own troubles, Kelly says, Storm is an amazing mom who has been giving her puppies everything she can provide. It’s a pleasure to watch her with her puppies, as they jump around her, licking and biting each other and her playfully.
Life for Storm and her puppies will soon change dramatically for the better. She has already begun her journey to regain her health, and soon she will have an opportunity to become part of a loving family, as she so deserves.
There are an estimated two million dogs like Storm on dog meat farms in South Korea alone, and we realize that the task ahead is enormous. While we cannot close down each of these farms, we are demonstrating to the government that our successful model of transitioning dog meat farmers to humane trades can be adopted nationwide to wipe out this industry for good. And increasingly, we’re gaining the support of Korean citizens who share our strong opposition to the trade.
By turning a global spotlight on this problem, and by reaching out to Koreans about the evils of the dog meat trade, we are changing how this trade is viewed within their country. Since last year, authorities – keenly aware of growing domestic disapproval and international censure — moved to close, with the assistance of HSI/South Korea, the largest dog slaughterhouse in the country in Seongnam; and in July this year HSI/Korea worked with other Korean animal groups and the Busan city council to close the Gupo dog meat market.
Our work in Korea will continue, until we are certain that animals are not suffering anymore on dog meat farms, with nothing to look forward to other than a cruel death by electrocution or bludgeoning. And for the 90 dogs we are rescuing right now — including Chewbacca, a golden retriever at the farm who is being adopted through one of our rescue partners by HSI President Jeffrey Flocken — change will come even sooner, as they begin their transit overseas, to a future that we hope is filled with treats, walks and lots of cuddles.