On Monday, Humane Society International brought 11 dogs into the United States from South Korea, hoping to find new homes for them. Of course, dogs needing to be rehomed isn’t unusual. However, these 11 dogs previously belonged to a farmer near Seoul who was raising them as meat. Twelve more dogs from the same farmer will be following them.
HSI cut a deal with the farmer in which they not only convinced him to turn the dogs over to them, but to commit to getting out of the dog meat business altogether. As part of the deal, HSI will help the farmer in transitioning to other crops.
While many Asian countries traditionally have dogs on the menu, Korea is unique in that there are farms where dogs are specifically bred to be butchered for meat. In the video below, Kelly O'Meara from HSI explains that this batch of dogs represents the first step in a program to get farmers to voluntarily stop raising dogs as meat.
"These 23 dogs are acting as ambassadors for a campaign we've now launched in Korea to try and reduce the overall dog meat consumption in the country," she says. "We learned of this farmer that had had some ideas already of closing. So we have them sign a pledge that states that they will stay out of the industry for a lifelong commitment, as well as help them to transition into a humane trade that is along the lines of raising crops."
The dogs need to be checked out for diseases and acclimate themselves to their new environment before HSI can start to think about rehoming them. After all, they haven't been raised to live with families. O'Meara says that in addition to the fact that they're being raised to be slaughtered, the dogs live in miserable conditions every day, three to five stuffed into a single small cage.
Megan Webb, of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, says in the video, "We have to remember that they're coming from a life where they lived in a cage for their entire life, or on a chain. This is going to be a lot of stimulation for them."
The idea of a program that encourages dog farmers to leave the business voluntarily is brilliant, and hopefully we'll see more successes from it in the future. Although Americans tend to look at things like this as examples of cruelty in foreign cultures, the thing that drives them is something that's very familiar to us all: People need to make money.
Without a positive alternative that allows Korean farmers to support themselves, you could pass as many laws as you want, or raid farms every day, but if it's the best (or only) way for South Korean farmers to support themselves, it's not going away. If the HSI executes this program correctly, they have a real chance of making dog farms a thing of the past. Good luck to them, and we hope to hear more reports like this in the future.
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