Today on Chasing News we had quite a discussion on the Humane Society bringing in dogs from Korea to spare them from being slaughtered for human consumption. Human consumption?!? Dog meat restaurants and dog farms are not only a part of certain cultures, they’re abundant. The very thought of eating a dog is repugnant to me, and I’m guessing you as well. We’ve had family dogs from breeders and even rescued a couple over the years so dogs are a part of our family.
Having said that, before researching for the Chasing News segment we taped today I didn’t really know just how deep the dog consumption tradition is in certain parts of the world. In Korea it’s estimated that more than two million dogs are slaughtered each year. What separates Korea from the dog eating tradition in China and Vietnam is that in those countries it’s typically stray dogs that are taken in to become the family’s food, while in Korea they are actively farm raised for consumption.
While dogs are also eaten in other Asian countries such as Vietnam and China, they are mainly strays rounded up from the streets. South and North Korea are unusual in farming the animals, activists say.
There are no records available of the number of farms, but those in the industry estimate about two million dogs are consumed in South Korea each year.
As offensive as this entire discussion may be many Americans, and as much as the typical reaction is very supportive of the Humane Society efforts, it does raise some questions. First, is it appropriate to apply the Western value of dogs to a culture that actively celebrates their consumption? To many in Korea, this is as normal as eating chicken. Second, how does saving a couple hundred dogs even put a dent in an industry that caters to a two month festival where the main course is dog stew?
At least The Humane Society does seem to understand the plight of the farmers struggling in Korea. They offered compensation and assistance converting dog farms to greenhouse vegetable farms in exchange for freeing the dogs. Seems like an appropriate move, but it brings up another legitimate question. How practical is it to travel to other countries, buy the dogs from the farm and bring them to the U.S.? Considering how many dogs are already in the US without a proper home it seems counter productive. Nothing illustrates this more than the fact that more than a million dogs are euthanized every year in the US?
- Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
- Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).
- Approximately 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.4 million dogs and 1.3 million cats).
Is this emotional plea to save the dogs from Korean dinner tables and restaurants based on our view of pets fair to the struggling local economies across the globe? At what point should we back off of our own cultural judgment and leave them alone?
One of the underlying issues in this discussion is that the treatment of the dogs in the farm industry is considered dirty and inhumane by some. One of the main reasons is that the dog farming industry isn’t regulated. And that’s largely because both the farmers and the animal rights activists oppose regulation. The farmers don’t want the government involved and the animal rights activists don’t want to legitimize the industry.
In addition to farm conditions, media attention often focuses on alleged cruelty in the transportation and slaughter of dogs. Since dogs aren’t recognized as livestock in Korea, the industry isn’t regulated.
Any initiative to introduce regulation is opposed by both dog farmers and animal rights activists–the former because of potential added costs, and the latter because of fears it would put the industry on a solid longer-term footing.
The natural course of history seems to be on the side of the dogs as only about 20% of younger Koreans eat dogs compared to half of men over 50.
A poll conducted by Gallup Korea last year showed that only 20 percent of men in their 20s consumed dog meat in the past year, compared to half of those in their 50s and 60s.
“In the past, people ate dogs because there was nothing else to eat but nowadays, young people don’t have to eat it,” Gong said. “It’s becoming weird for people,” he added.
This seems like an issue that will evolve out of existence in about 20 years. In the meantime, what are we gonna do about all the dogs in the US that end up in shelters?