WONJU, South Korea – This is another successful story of dogs that escaped the terrible “life” of meat farms and that thanks to the Humane Society International (HSI) will have the chance to find their forever homes. For a while now, the HSI has been working on closing dog meat farms across Asia by offering the farmers a transition to alternative livelihoods like growing crops. They are giving them an incentive of $2,000 to $60,000 depending on the number of dogs they have.
So far they have closed 5 farms and flown the dogs to the United States and Canada where they will be looking for a home. The last one was located in Wonju and 250 dogs were rescued in this operation (171 already left South Korea). The farmer, Mr. Gong, says he may start growing mushrooms now.
He entered the dog meat farm business because it was the most productive alternative (his previous businesses had shut down) although he recognizes it has been changing lately. More people have dogs as pets and there are more options of meat to eat -there was a time when the lack of food led them to start eating dog meat. However it’s still popular, especially during the summer months. It is estimated that South Koreans consume around 2 million dogs each year and 60% of those dogs are eaten between mid-July and mid-August because it is believed that dog meat cools down the blood.
The conditions of these farms are terrible. Dogs are confined their wholes lives in small, wire cages below which feces pile up. They are fed with discarded food until the day they are sold to the meat traders who take them to the slaughterhouse and then meat dealers sell their carcasses to the restaurants.
Many people in South Korea have never visited a dog meat farm and they are unaware of the conditions dogs endure there. There is also the misconception of farm dogs being different than pet dogs but the HSI is working hard to educated people about that. Offering a transition is definitely a better option that closing down the farm by force. Because if the farmers don’t see an alternative way of living, they can easily go back to dog meat farming. But what about the risks? Offering them money according to the amount of dogs could also have bad consequences. Many of the dogs in meat farms are stolen, so this incentive could push some farmers to steal more dogs in order to receive more money.
Are the risks worth it? What do you think? I think that when you see all those pictures of dogs in the worst agony and then you see them smiling with a family or waiting for one at a shelter where they still get love and care, the risks seem worth it.
ADAM PARASCANDOLA, DIRECTOR OF ANIMAL PROTECTION AND CRISIS RESPONSE AND GARY WEITZMAN, PRESIDENT OF THE SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY INTERACT WITH A DOG JUST RESCUED FROM A MEAT FARM IN KOREA ON TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2015 AT THE HUMANE SOCIETY IN SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA.(PHOTO BY SANDY HUFFAKER/AP IMAGES FOR THE HSUS)
But I also think there is still a long road to go. There are a lot of cultural implications that require time to change. Taking the first step is important but let’s see a bigger picture here. We get affected by these images because we know how it’s like to share a life with a dog (or a cat) and how they become part of your family. And of course you wouldn’t eat your family. But South Koreans until relatively recently, didn’t see dogs as companions so for them to see these farms as cruel the same way we do, takes time.
And then again, expecting them to change because we see things differently is not enough. We also need to change. Why are we not getting equally outraged by all the other meat farms out there? Cows, pigs, chicken, lambs, horses in the meat industry all over the world also endure the same horrible conditions dogs endure in these Asian meat farms. We should also speak up for these animals because if we put the excuse that they are not our pets so we don’t care about their suffering, then we are being the same as the people who consume dogs in the restaurants in Asia. No animal deserves a life like this. We can be their voice… “Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Ghandi