WARNING: This article contains graphic details of dog abuse and graphic accounts of dog meat consumption. Some readers may find this distressing.
The consumption of dog meat in South Korea, where it is known as “Gaegogi” has a long history. It is said to have originated around 57AD. In recent years it has become very controversial in South Korea due to Animal Rights and sanitary concerns.
Dog meat consumption can be traced all the way back to neolithic Korea where dog bones were excavated in the settlement of Changnyeong.
In the Goguryeo Tombs Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site which dates from 4th century AD, a wall painting depicts a slaughtered dog in a store house.
The Balhae people were also known to have enjoyed dog meat. Studies show that the Korean’s appetite for canine seems to have come from that era.
In 1816, Jeong Hak-yu, the son of a well known politician wrote a poem called Nongga Wollyeongga. This poem is an important source of Korean Folk History. It tells the story of a married woman visiting her parents. She brings with her boiled dog meat, rice cakes and wine. This poem shows the popularity of dog meat at the time.
In 1849, a Korean scholar, Hong Seok-mo wrote a book which contains a recipe including a whole boiled dog, onions and chili pepper powder.
The Hwangu is the primary breed raised in dog farms for consumption. It is said to differ from breeds raised for consumption. Last year, The Korea Observer reported that many breeds are in South Korea. The report also says that dogs slaughtered for their meat can include former domesticated pets.
Statistics show that around 1-30% of South Koreans have eaten dog in their lifetime. Only a small percentage eat it regularly. There are many groups in South Korea who are very much against the practice of eating dog meat. There is also a large population of people in the country who do not eat the meat but feel strongly that it is the right of other to do so.
There is a small but very vocal group of pro-dog consumption people in South Korea who want to make dog meat consumption popular, not just in Korea but across the rest of the world. They consider it a vital part of Korea’s traditional culture.
Dog meat is usually eaten during the summer months and is either roasted or prepared in soups and stews. A popular dog meat soup in the country is Gaejang-guk, a spicy stew meant to balance the body’s heat during the summer months. This is believed to balance one’s vital body energy.
Last year, Martyn Stewart documented the closure of a large commercial dog meat factory in South Korea. The Humane Society International had written an agreement with a farmer on the outskirts of South Korea’s capital, Seoul. The farm had over 100 dogs that supplied the many traders of the markets of Moran. A team went to the farm to get all the dogs ready to be shipped back to various shelters across the US.
Stewart describes his time on the dog meat farm:
“On the Sunday morning when I stepped off the bus and onto the farm for the first time, I could hear barking from many directions. There was a dog outside the office that was tethered to a wire cable that ran up and down a 10 foot run. This was the pet, she looked emaciated, her fur was in bad shape and she was covered in fleas. This prepared me to what I was about to witness. Walking up the dirt drive was another pet with a thick heavy chain tied to her collar that gave her about 6 feet of freedom. She was also emaciated and covered in fleas, she lived under a corrugated tin shelter that was full of her own feces, she was petrified and hid her face in the dirt as we walked on up to the farm.
I saw the first row of cages with dogs jumping up and down barking and wagging their tails, they were all tan colored with darker muzzles, they looked a cross between a mastiff and a Rhodesian ridgeback dog, I was told that these were the typical meat dogs in South Korea and had no value as pets. I placed my hands on each cage and every dog tried to sniff and lick my hand. They were so beautiful and loving, many dogs snapped at each other wanting to get as much attention as possible for themselves. Large dogs and smaller dogs barked constantly, jumping up and down frantically.
Behind these cages were more cages, all open aired and full of feces, their food bowls were empty and in the warm sunshine I noticed they had no water. Dog after dog after dog displayed the same actions, many uncontrollable. I could feel myself breaking inside and I teared up. I had to keep my composure as I was trying to film these beautiful animals so the world could see the conditions they were living in. I walked past a mincer with a huge bowl underneath it to catch the food that was prepared for all the animals. There were millions of flies and maggots crawling through whatever had been minced, the stench was horrendous.
I covered my face as I approached the puppy enclosure that was under cover; female dogs and their young were in these raised metal wire cages that the dogs could barely stand in because of the gaps in the base. Each of the puppies would drop a leg through and stumble; there was no flooring to make a footing and as they grew older, their feet became deformed because they had to adapt to the conditions. Below the cages were piles of feces
On top of the cages were bottles of drugs and used hypodermic needles that the farmer would inject into the dogs; I had no idea what was in these bottles, but they were not kept in a refrigerator. The female dogs barked, some growled to protect their puppies, others wagged their tails.”
There are many activists, charities, organizations and petitions that protest and campaign against the dog meat trade and inhumane treatment to dogs in factories and farms. If you believe the dog meat trade is wrong, use your voice, sign a petition, donate to a charity, write a letter to the South Korean government. Become an activist.
The Humane Society International campaign against the dog meat trade. Visit their site, hsi.org.
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