When three peak days of summer approach in South Korea, so do the peaks of slaughter of dogs from the country’s dog meat farms.
The three hottest days of the year according to the lunar calendar are known as Boknal, a period when some people still take part in the habit of eating a dog meat soup called “bosintang.”Even though most Koreans don’t eat dog meat, according to opinion polls, the fraction of Koreans who do eat dog meat tend to eat it during Boknal in the belief that the soup can help relieve the effects of the sweltering summer heat.
While the dog meat trade spans many different countries, South Korea is the only nation known to intensively farm dogs for meat. Between one to 1.5 million dogs are bred there each year in unsanitary and inhumane conditions in thousands of dog farms. I’ve witnessed first-hand the gut-wrenching conditions of these farms, the rows and rows of cages where skeletal and sick dogs still manage to whimper and wag their tails whenever a person walks by. Many of these dogs will be slaughtered over the summer.
Dogs are dying for this soup—but it doesn’t have to be that way. Many people in South Korea are working to bring an end to the practice, and that includes Korean chefs who are working with Humane Society International/Korea to come up with an innovative campaign to reshape tradition. These chefs are creating plant-based alternatives to bosintang.
Using fresh seasonal vegetables, chef Ahn Baek-Rin is the first of three chefs to create meat-free dishes for HSI/Korea’s “My Healthy Diet” campaign during Boknal. The recipes offer a fresh, plant-based take on Boknal eating, incorporating many of the ingredients traditionally found in bosintang to help Koreans stay cool during the hot summer months without contributing to the suffering of dogs.
On July 11, the campaign rolled out the first of three recipes on HSI/Korea’s social media platforms for Chobok (the first of the summer’s three bok days). This Chobok recipe called “Self-care soup” combines a broth made with boshin soup sauce, vegetables and cashews, with shiitake, pine and lion’s mane mushrooms, and a sauce made with Korean chili paste, sesame oil, soya sauce and paprika. Two more dishes will be released in the coming weeks: Jungbok (July 21, mid-summer) and Malbok (August 10, end of summer).
It isn’t just dogs who stand to benefit from people eating less dog meat. Eating plant-based bosintang for Boknal can also benefit human health. Not only do unsanitary and inhumane welfare practices on dog farms potentially lead to the spread of zoonotic diseases, laboratory tests have also found an alarming amount of dog meat can contain harmful bacteria such as E. coli as well as antibiotics used to combat sickness in dogs due to the low welfare conditions on farms.
We recently told you about the inspiring rescue of over one hundred dogs from South Korean dog meat farms. These rescues are made possible because of HSI/Korea’s dedication and expertise, often combined with that of our remarkable Korean partners to end the practice of dog farming in South Korea. This work is multifaceted, involving changing public perception about dogs raised on meat farms as adoptable pets while also giving dog farmers who want to leave the dog meat industry alternative ways to make a living.
HSI/Korea has worked co-operatively with farmers to close down 17 dog meat farms in South Korea, and is campaigning for legislation to end the dog meat trade in the country for good. A recent opinion poll commissioned by HSI/Korea and conducted by Nielsen shows growing support for a ban on the dog meat trade, with almost 60% supporting a ban on the dog meat trade.
From eating plant-based bosintang to advocating for legislative action, it’s inspiring to think about how many creative and meaningful ways there are to make the world a better place for animals, and how many people around the world are helping.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.