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'Dog is livestock subject to meat consumption'

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Owners of dog meat farms hold a rally near Cheong Wa Dae, Aug. 28, to protest the government's move to take dogs off the list of livestock, which may lead to the closure of their farms. / Korea Times photo by Kang Seung-woo
Owners of dog meat farms hold a rally near Cheong Wa Dae, Aug. 28, to protest the government's move to take dogs off the list of livestock, which may lead to the closure of their farms. / Korea Times photo by Kang Seung-woo

This is the second in a two-part series on the nation's dog meat culture and people involved in it. ― ED.

By Kang Seung-woo

Dog farm owners are up in arms following the government's recent move to take dogs off the list of livestock, which is expected to shutdown their farms.

At a rally in late August, in which some 300 dog farm owners participated, they claimed the government's move would threaten the livelihoods of 17,000 owners. They said animal rights groups' claims that it is illegal to run a dog farm for meat for human consumption were wrong because dogs are categorized as livestock.

While the number of people eating the nation's traditional delicacy is decreasing, it seems people think outlawing dog meat consumption is a different issue, as a recent poll showed 51.5 percent were against a law banning dog meat consumption compared to 39.7 percent favoring it, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

Joo Young-bong, the secretary general of the association of dog farm owners, claims that current anti-dog meat campaigns are the West's bid to end the nation's long-historied dining culture and culturally colonize the East in the guise of animal protection.

He said Britain and other European countries are trying to export dogs to the East. "However, just selling dogs is not lucrative, so they are also selling food, goods and even pet funerals," he told The Korea Times in a recent interview. "In short, in order to benefit their pet industry, Western countries are focused on animal rights campaigns happening here."

Joo also claimed that campaigns against dog meat consumption here are led by "fake" animal rights activists linked to big companies in the multinational pet industry that sponsor them _ a claim activists deny.

"A majority of animal rights groups here place their priority on receiving a large sum of donations over rescuing and taking care of animals in need," he said.

"A combined annual donation of the nation's three major organizations surpasses 10 billion won ($8.82 million). However, a small amount of the money, or 200 million won, is practically spent on animals."

Dog meat can contribute to inter-Korean ties

In line with the government's efforts to improve inter-Korean ties, the association plans to send tens of thousands of dogs to North Korea for its starving people, believing it will help the two Koreas become closer.

"One of the most popular dishes in North Korea is dog meat, so we are willing to send 100,000 dogs there and hold an inter-Korean dog meat festival," Joo said.

Unlike South Korea, a variety of dog meat recipes have developed in the North as its former leaders are said to have enjoyed it.

"There is no better way than serving food in terms of creating a strong relationship," Joo said. "In that respect, if we send dogs _ alive or slaughtered, depending on the situation _ to the North, its people would appreciate our good intentions.

"Considering such possible effects, dog meat could play a key role in ushering in an era of a unified Korea. That is why I call dog meat 'unification food.'"

The secretary general, who doubles as a pastor in the southwest city of Gwangju, is confident that dog meat has the potential to be like kimchi that globally receives rave reviews from foreigners.

"When foreigners try kimchi for the first time, they have trouble eating it, but after understanding its effects, they become fond of it," Joo said. "Dog meat can also take the same path. It can assure us of our cultural identity."

The owners' association has already proposed to the Seoul government the idea of sending dogs to the North.



Kang Seung-woo ksw@koreatimes.co.kr


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