SIHEUNG-SI, South Korea — It is otherwise such a high-tech, wired in, thoroughly modern country it seems inconceivable that there really could be a dog meat industry and slaughter going on here.
But it isn’t urban myth or, as the current lexicon would put it, fake news.
Enough South Koreans – certainly not all of them, not even most of them, but enough of them — still eat dog meat often enough that an estimated 2.5 million dogs are killed for food here every year.
The dogs are sold in markets and to dog meat restaurants – there are still a dozen in the Gangneung area, where the Olympic skating and hockey venues are located, alone — mostly as a peppery soup with purported healing and virility-enhancing qualities. This soup is particularly popular on the three hottest days of the summer, called “boknal”.
Young dogs in an enclosure on Thursday near the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics site.
Humane Society International (HSI) estimates there are 17,000 so-called “dog meat farms” across the country.
The name is a misnomer.
Most aren’t farms in any recognizable way except that the dogs are purpose-raised for slaughter – and on some of the bigger operations, even kept like chickens in row upon row of cramped cages. Many farms aren’t even in rural areas.
For instance, what HSI calls Farm No. 11 – when permanently closed next month, it will be the eleventh farm the charity has shut down since January of 2015 — is in a dense part of Siheung-si, a city near Incheon International Airport.
The farm is just off a busy major road, in a ramshackle area of small industries and even residential buildings.
It looks nothing like a farm.
Sang-ki Kim is the owner of the business, though he just rents the land, and according to what he told HSI campaign manager Nara Kim (no relation), he ended up in the dog meat business accidentally.
Years ago, he got himself a pair of the Korean Jindo dogs he says he likes, and two led to four, and so on.
Then he started selling them as meat dogs.
He approached HSI for help in getting out of the business – the charity gives such farmers small start-up grants if they transition to a new industry, and Kim says he wants to grow mushrooms now in a different area — claiming he has the heart for it no longer.
Two of the dogs purpose raised for slaughter at a dog …read more