With South Korea’s Bok Nal days underway, the country’s animal protection campaigners mobilised at South Korea’s first ever global anti-dog meat conference.
The days mark the hottest point of the summer between 17 July and 16 August when as many as 1 million dogs are killed to make ‘boshintang’ soup, which is falsely believed to cool the blood. World-renowned conservationist Jane Goodall, who is a United Nations Messenger of Peace and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, provided the campaigners with a special video message of support.
Hosted by Korea Animal Rights Advocates at the Seoul Museum of History, delegates from around the world, including Humane Society International, Taiwan SPCA, and VShine from China, shared their expertise. National politicians also lent their support for an end to Korea’s dog meat trade that sees up to 3 million dogs a year factory-farmed in deplorable conditions for human consumption.
Goodall’s video message gave an enormous morale boost to delegates, as she expressed her support for an end to the dog meat trade. Goodall said: " I’ve always had a great love for dogs. When I was a child, I had a relationship with one who taught me so much about animal behaviour. They’ve been domesticated, they’ve been man’s best friend for maybe 15,000 years or more, and in that time, they’ve done so much for us. They’ve guarded our belongings, they’ve guarded people, they’ve guided the blind, they’ve helped autistic children to read – this and so much more. And so, to actually kill these wonderful beings for food seems very, very sad for me. And I hope this conference will bring this out into the open, and people will talk about it, and maybe things will change."
HSI has been in South Korea since 2014 working with dog farmers to permanently close down their dog meat farms and transition them into new, humane livelihoods. In so doing, HSI’s strategy is demonstrating to the South Korean government a working blue-print for successfully phasing out and ending the trade entirely, in co-operation with farmers. HSI has so far permanently closed five such dog farms and rescued more than 500 dogs for adoption in the United States and Canada, and the charity’s Adam Parascandola showcased those rescues to conference delegates.
Parascandola said: "South Korea has an estimated 17,000 dog meat farms, with up to 3 million dogs at any one time. So it’s obvious that rescue alone is never going to end the trade for good. That’s why Humane Society International has a broader strategy combining public education to change hearts and minds, and political advocacy to change laws. In South Korea, there is a general misconception about the dogs raised on these farms as being somehow “different” from companion dogs. So through our rescues and adoptions, we’re showing people that all kinds of breeds, including Chihuahuas and golden retrievers, are found languishing on these farms, dogs no different from those we share our homes with. Showcasing our adoptions of the rescued dogs are demonstrating that these dogs are as gentle, loyal and loving as any other dog."
Dogs live a miserable existence on dog meat farms, typically confined in small barren, wire cages without any comfort or proper care, until the day they are removed from the cage to be killed. Although most people in South Korea don’t regularly eat dogs, dog meat stew is still widely consumed during Bok Nal, and historically the public has been indifferent to, or even resisted, the idea of a ban. But that could all be set to change as dog eating is increasingly falling out of favour with the younger generation. A growing interest in keeping dogs as companions, and increasing public awareness of animal suffering, is leading many to question the practice of dog eating like never before. KARA and HSI believe that highlighting the human-dog bond is key to creating the public support for a ban that will motivate the government to end the dog meat trade.
Soonrye Yim, executive representative at KARA, said: “The Korean government has been silent despite the slaughter of more than 1 million dogs each year. Despite the fact that the dog meat industry is in violation of existing laws, the government has done nothing to crack down on the illegal industry. Due to the government’s long standing apathy towards animal cruelty, Korea has now become the only country in the world in which dogs are bred for consumption in huge factory farming facilities that hold thousands of dogs. This Conference seeks to go beyond the superficial discussion for and against the consumption of dog meat, and to look at the problem as not merely a Korean issue, but an international issue of cruelty to animals. Furthermore, the conference is especially meaningful because a civil society is taking initiative to urge the Korean government to seek solutions, using Chinese and Taiwanese cases as examples.”
Other key note speakers at the conference were Lee Jeong-Mi, co-representative of the National Assembly’s Forum for Animal Welfare and a Justice Party member; Bak Hong-Geun, co-representative of the Forum for Animal Welfare and a member of the Minjoo Party; and Professor Woo Hee-Jong, a chairman of the advisory committee for the Forum for Animal Welfare and a professor of Veterinary Medicine at Seoul National University.
For more information visit ["www.hsi.org/dogmeat:http://www.hsi.org/issues/dog_meat/].