Born and raised for their meat, dogs in South Korea are now given a new chance at life, and so are the farmers that have made a living preparing the dogs for the table. The Humane Society International (HSI) has successfully implemented a program where farmers are set up with an infrastructure to grow crops while the dogs are taken away to be rescued. It’s a win-win situation.
As a younger population of South Koreans consume less and less dog meat, the farms have been losing business. The program helps them transition while giving the dogs a new home.
The 103 dogs were rescued in groups, sent on airplanes to shelters in California, Oregon, and Washington.
The Wall Street Journal followed a farmer through this transition in March, one of three who has participated in the program this year. Lee Tae-hyun has raised and sold dogs for meat for 20 years but has long been ready to give it up. English setters, poodles, beagles, and Korean Jindo hunting dogs (known for having the richest tasting meat) were just some of the dogs awaiting their fates in the cages of Mr. Lee’s farm. The farm has been losing money lately and many farms in the area of rural, central South Korea that have raised dogs are undoubtedly feeling the same pressure as demand plummets.
As Mr. Lee’s mother watched the dogs leave she waved saying, “I pray they’ll live well in the U.S.”
It’s the end of an era for the Lee family, who will begin growing peppers with funding from HSI, and hopefully the beginning of the end for the industry as a whole. The consumption of dog is a sensitive issue in South Korea. The rise in pet ownership and advocacy nationally and internationally have impacted the tradition. Yet it is still served in restaurants across the country and many feel that activists are imposing western values unfairly.
The Humane Society International has been campaigning to end the dog meat trade in South Korea, China, and the cross border transport through Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In other areas of Asia where dog meat is a popular menu item, the dogs are often captured from pet owners or as strays wandering the street. But South Korea has a large number of dog meat farms. Though they are not highly regulated, it makes it easier for rescue and transition programs to take hold and make a difference. As part of the agreement, Mr. Lee was asked to communicate his personal experience and the opportunity to other dog meat farmers.