South Korea’s Dog Meat Trade Persists Despite Olympic Spotlight
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on February 17, 2018
Posted in Dogs
Countries that host the Olympics usually make a conscious effort to emphasize the beauties of their culture and downplay their flaws. Before the TV cameras arrive, hosting countries invest in “covering up” certain practices or policies that athletes and viewers might find distasteful.
One such practice that exists in South Korea, the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, is its infamous dog meat trade.
A Thousand-Year-Old Tradition
Approximately 2.5 million dogs are killed for their meat in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang each year after being raised on farms that are known for horrific conditions. Restaurants across the country serve dog salad, dog ribs, dog stew or dog hot pot. Very few citizens under the age of 40 eat dog but it is still fairly popular among elderly residents of rural areas.
According to CBS News, the South Korean government offered monetary rewards to restaurants located near Olympic venues that stopped selling dog meat. Signs on restaurants that advertise dog meat were asked to be taken down.
Almost every restaurant, however, has apparently refused the offer.
“I have been selling dog meat for decades. It is really difficult for me to change my menu just because of the Olympics,” a 60-year-old restaurant owner told CBS News.
Fellow South Korean restaurateurs declined to take dog meat off their menus due to fears of upsetting longtime customers who would likely not return once the Olympics came to a close and the old menus were reinstated.
The Dog Farm Next Door
Many older South Koreans apparently believe that eating dog meat provides strength and energy. The literal translation of the word for dog stew – “bosingtang” – is “invigorating stew.”
The South Korean government also tried to persuade dog farms near Olympic venues to relocate. Six dog farms are located near the downhill skiing course, with ten more near the venues for indoor events like ice hockey and figure skating. More than 17,000 dog farms operate in South Korea, the majority of which are in the capital city of Seoul.
Pressure From Rescue Organizations
Younger South Koreans as well as international and local animal welfare organizations are urging the South Korean government to ban the country’s dog meat trade. Pet ownership has increased in the nation over the past few years, with one in five households owning dogs or cats. South Korean president Moon Jae-in vowed to adopt a dog if he won the previous election and followed through on his promise when he took in a 4-year-old mixed breed over the summer.
A local volunteer organization called Free Korean Dogs was responsible for the rescue of Moo-tae, the 2-year-old miniature dachshund mix adopted by Olympic figure skater Meagan Duhamel last year.
A Match Made In Nirvana
Moo-tae was rescued from a dog farm by Buddhists living in a nearby monestery, where he was then discovered by Free Korean Dogs founder EK Park. Free Korean Dogs connects dogs born on dog meat farms to potential owners living in Canada and the US.
“He brings a very special energy,” Duhamel said of Moo-tae. “I meditate every day, and he sits beside me patiently while I meditate. I don’t know if he was trained to do that.”
A few months after Moo-tae’s adoption, Duhamel’s parents adopted their own dog through the same organization.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan