50 Dogs Rescued From a Former Dog Meat Farm in South Korea

Mostly mastiffs and jindos, the dogs will look for homes in the U.S. and Canada.

Nara Kim of HSI Korea comforts a dog in Yongin, South Korea,
Nara Kim of HSI Korea comforts a dog in Yongin.

Jean Chung/For HSI

Korean animal rights groups saved 50 dogs from a shuttered dog meat farm in South Korea. The facility had been closed by authorities and the animals would likely have been euthanized without rescue.

Rescuers found the dogs in bare metal cages without water or adequate food. The farmers who had been running the facility left the canines behind after officials issued a demolition order for the property.

"Many of these dogs were really afraid when our rescuers entered the farm, pressing their bodies to the back wall of their cage and hiding their faces. So they were clearly traumatized and afraid of people," Wendy Higgins, director of international media for Humane Society International (HSI), tells Treehugger. "I shudder to think of the horrors that they will have witnessed on the farm, especially as this facility also had a dog slaughterhouse on site so they will have seen and heard dogs being killed."

Humane Society International/Korea, LIFE, KoreanK9Rescue, and Yongin Animal Care Association worked with local authorities to remove the dogs so the structures could be demolished.

Receiving Care and Preparing for Homes

A dog is kept in a cage at a former dog meat farm in Yongin, South Korea,
A dog curls up in a cage in a former dog meat farm.

Jean Chung/For HSI

The dogs were mostly jindos and mastiffs, and also included "Tiny Tim" — a small pet terrier owned by one of the farmers and relinquished to the rescuers.

A bulk of the dogs were malnourished and had skin diseases and sore feet from standing on the wire cage floor. Some had untreated head and ear wounds. Many were terrified of people and were shaking and curled up in the corners of their cages when the rescuers arrived.

"But despite their fear, the dogs soon responded positively as soon as they were shown human kindness, wagging their tails and barking for attention," Higgins says.

The dogs are now at HSI's temporary facility in South Korea where they are receiving veterinary care, food, beds "and their first real experience of positive human interaction where they can start to learn to trust," Higgins says.

They'll receive vaccinations and make sure they are in good health before flying to shelters in the United States and Canada where they will eventually find adoptive families.

The Dog Meat Legal Gray Area

Dog is comforted at former dog meat farm

Jean Chung/For HSI

This farm, located in the city of Yongin, had been operating in breach of the country's Animal Protection Act enacted in 2017. The legislation acknowledges that animals feel pain and can suffer and protects animal welfare.

But the dog meat trade operates in a "legal gray area," suggests Claire Czajkowski in her report on the industry: "Within South Korea, the dog meat trade occupies a liminal legal space — neither explicitly condoned, nor technically prohibited."

In Defense of Animals says the trade lives in a legal blind spot. The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries doesn't recognize dog meat as legal, but the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which controls dog meat post-slaughter, does.

In 2018, a Korean court declared that killing dogs for meat was illegal. But that was one individual ruling, not a nationwide ban.

An estimated 2 million dogs are still kept on thousands of farms across South Korea, according to HSI.

HSI/Korea has closed down 17 dog meat farms in the country and is campaigning for legislation in South Korea to completely end the dog meat trade.

"The largest dog slaughterhouse has been closed, and the largest of the dog meat markets too, but other dog slaughterhouses do still exist, and Chilsung dog market is also still operational," Higgins says. "So significant progress has been made, but we still need a legislative ban in place."

A September 2020 poll commissioned by HSI/Korea and conducted by Nielsen shows nearly 84% of South Koreans said they don’t or won’t eat dogs and almost 60% supporting a legislative ban on the trade.

"Polls show that the majority of South Koreans don’t eat dog meat, and certainly amongst younger Koreans dogs are predominantly seen as pets," Higgins says. "There is growing public and even political momentum for change, and showing the grim and upsetting reality of the dog meat industry really does help to enlighten people."

Higgins adds: "Seeing the adoption journeys of these dogs also helps to show people that these are just the same as their pet dogs at home, they’ve just had a very troubled start to their lives."

View Article Sources
  1. Wendy Higgins, director of international media for Humane Society International UK

  2. HSI UK

  3. https://api.worldanimalprotection.org/country/korea and HSI UK

  4. https://law.lclark.edu/live/files/23690-21-czajkowskipdf

  5. https://www.idausa.org/campaign/dog-meat/about/

  6. https://www.hsi.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/South-Korea-dog-meat-poll-2020.pdf