This week, Humane Society International staff is on the ground in South Korea, closing down the 16th dog meat farm in our campaign there and rescuing 70 dogs destined for a grim future on the butcher’s block.
Among the dogs we found on site are poodles, beagles, huskies, golden retrievers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, tosas, jindos and Boston terriers. When our staff responders came across them, the animals were languishing in rows of dilapidated cages, surrounded by animal waste, junk and garbage. But the minute they saw their rescuers, they erupted into a barking chorus, reports Nara Kim, HSI’s consultant in South Korea.
“Some of the dogs were desperately jumping for me to notice them and offer some affection, while others hid at the back of their cages in fear,” Nara said. Among the dogs was one we named Pogo, a Boston terrier tied to a chain who was so desperate for attention that he leapt forward constantly although the chain he was tied to whipped him back each time. When a staff member approached him, he was overcome with joy—he particularly loved the tug toy we fashioned for him using a leash.
Pogo’s condition was heartbreaking: his eyes didn’t focus well and they bulged noticeably, perhaps from all of the stress and his desperate attempts to escape the very short chain. It is especially gratifying for our staff to get him off the farm and send him on to his new life.
The owner of this dog meat farm told us he has been breeding the dogs for nearly 40 years, but believes there is now no future in it. He jumped at the chance offered by HSI to leave dog farming behind and begin a new life growing cabbages and other vegetables instead.
With fewer South Koreans eating dog meat than ever before, and with more people seeing dogs as companions rather than food, the demand for dog meat has been dropping in Korea. In recent years, there has also been a series of new regulations and court rulings cracking down on the industry.
The farmer told our staff that although he entered the business believing he’d make good money, “it hasn’t really worked out that way. I earn nothing from this dog farm, and pressure from the government is increasing and it’s not a good business at all.”
This time, with the rescue happening in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we have faced some delays, but our staff on the ground in Korea is working hard to make sure the dogs don’t have to suffer for another day. The dogs will be moved to a boarding facility, where they will receive full veterinary check-ups and be given everything they need to be comfortable for the first time in their lives. The dogs will be cared for in South Korea until the pandemic calms globally and they can be flown to our temporary shelter in Canada and shelter partners in the United States to seek adoptive homes.
South Korea, where an estimated two million dogs are bred and raised on thousands of dog meat farms each year, has been a big focus of HSI’s ongoing work to end the dog meat trade around the globe, and we have made significant progress in the nation. During the five years of our campaign in South Korea, we have rescued more than 2,000 dogs from such farms and transported them overseas for rehoming.
In November 2018, HSI assisted Seongnam City Council in shutting down the country’s largest dog slaughterhouse there. Two of the nation’s largest dog meat markets have also closed in recent years and in October 2019, the mayor of Seoul declared his city “dog slaughter free.”
In other nations where the trade exists, we have also seen remarkable progress in recent years. The Chinese government recently declared dogs are considered companions and not livestock and at least two cities in China have included bans on dog and cat meat in wider bans on the wildlife trade in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dog meat consumption has also been banned or severely restricted in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. In 2018 both Indonesia and Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi pledged an end to dog and cat meat consumption.
Given the scale of the global dog meat trade and the number of animals caught up in it, it will take some time before we succeed in wiping it off the face of the earth. We are working on it, and we will never give up, but for today, we celebrate the fact that for 70 dogs the future looks bright and filled with hope.