Humane Society International have a twofold plan of action for South Korea’s puppy breeding and dog meat trade. Firstly, they aim to rescue and release the dogs. However, playing the long game, they also aim to equip the dog meat farmers with the skills and resources they need to adopt more humane means of earning money in the future.
The dogs that HSI manages to relinquish will be flown to North America and Canada, where they will be homed with adoptive families.
The dog meat industry in South Korea is in trouble, since shifting cultural perspectives mean the meat is less sought after than it was in the past. The farmers are losing money. HSI has already closed down 13 puppy mill and dog meat farms, sometimes operating under the same roof, and the conditions are always the same: filthy cages lacking in adequate food and water, with the animals cruelly exposed to the elements.
“Pups are bred as both friend and food,” report HSI.
During their latest rescue operation in Hongseong, western South Korea, HSI discovered almost 200 dogs and a wide range of different breeds, including Chihuahuas, corgis, huskies, poodles, Pomeranians, and French bulldogs. Newborn pups were tripping on exposed wire floors under weak heat lamps, huddled within the shallow walls of rubber tires for warmth.
The “meat dogs,” waiting to be bought by food vendors, weren’t so lucky; they were kept in the cold outdoors. Many of the dogs had untreated injuries, were starving, and had dirty, matted fur.
Nara Kim of HSI South Korea released a statement on behalf of the charity: “The lines between puppy mills and dog meat farms are routinely blurred throughout South Korea,” she wrote. “These dogs are suffering at the hands of two abusive industries, their ultimate fate depending on whether they will sell for more money as a pet or for meat.”
Activists from the charity visited their latest target farm several times before executing the carefully planned rescue. In preliminary visits, they moved some of the cages indoors and improved the surface of the floor for the dogs’ painful—and often deformed—paws, using straw.
Lee Sang-gu is the owner of the farm. He had been eager to close the operation for some time: he was no longer making money from the enterprise, and his family members were embarrassed.
“From the very beginning, my entire family has been against my dog farming,” Lee Sang-gu admitted. “All my daughters and my wife want me to close it, and they have never wanted to visit the farm.”
Lee Sang-gu went on to explain that he himself had become ashamed of his vocation in recent years, and rarely told people what he did to earn a living. HSI knew they had ample space to negotiate with the increasingly desperate farmer.
The charity proposed a 20-year contract in which Lee Sang-gu vows to stay out of the dog meat trade in exchange for fully financed computer literacy training. He hopes to become a security guard.
Charity volunteers successfully rescued Lee Sang-gu’s dogs in the second week of February 2019. Support HSI in South Korea, as well as their sterling work the world over, by visiting their website.
Are you affected by this troubling story of the dog meat trade in South Korea? Celebrities like Simon Cowell and Gus Kenworthy are already avid supporters of Humane Society International—will you join them?