THE DOG MEAT SOUP HOAX

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1994:

NEW YORK, N.Y.––As Joey Skaggs wrote
in his letter of confession, “On Monday, May 16, 1994,
artist and socio-political satirist Joey Skaggs mailed over
1,500 letters to dog shelters around the country announc-
ing that his company Kea So Joo, Inc. (which translates
into Dog Meat Soup, Inc., in Korean) was seeking to
purchase dogs at 10¢ per pound to be consumed by
Asians as food. The response was overwhelming. Calls
were received from people willing to sell dogs (most
likely attempts at entrapment); from people outraged at
the concept of eating dogs; from people who were out-
right hostile and racist; and from people who threatened
to kill the proprietor of this business as well as other
Asians indiscriminately. Representatives of various gov-
ernmental and animal rights organizations including the
American SPCA were pressured to do something…
American and Korean media were called to arms.”

Beginning at noon on May 17, ANIMAL
PEOPLE telephone, fax, and E-mail communications
were disrupted for days with inquiries about Kea So Joo,
Inc., despite clear signs that the whole thing was a
hoax––including that the letter was written in pigeon
English while displaying perfect spelling and a consider-
able vocabulary. ANIMAL PEOPLE even recognized
the style of the prankster as that of the person or persons
behind a purported Greenwich Village brothel for dogs.
In 1976 a WABC-TV magazine episode included a seg-
ment about the brothel, videotaped in good faith as the
prankster and friends led dogs in and out of apartments
while pretending to be brothel clients and staff. The
episode was nominated for an Emmy and repeatedly
aired as a rerun, continuing to draw protest from viewers
who mistook it for current news for many years.
Near deadline with our June issue and preoccu-
pied with probing the more serious chicanery involved in
whaling politics, we telephoned our leads to the ASPCA
and Friends of Animals’ New York office circa 2:00
p.m. on May 17. FoA soon verified the high probability
of a hoax, but didn’t get the hoaxster’s identity. At
about 6:00 a.m. on May 30, after getting the June issue
out and concluding several other investigations, A N I-
MAL PEOPLE began the online detective work that
brought the sleepy Skaggs’ verbal confession circa 8:00
a.m., followed by the written confession at 4:18 P.M. on
May 30––which Skaggs claimed he had already faxed to
the ASPCA four days earlier, just before the Memorial
Day weekend. Be that as it may, an ANIMAL PEO-
PLE fax and online bulletin issued to all inquirants circa
9:00 a.m. on May 30 was the first confirmation of the
hoax that any recipients acknowledged receiving––and
still was, more than two weeks later, when ANIMAL
PEOPLE helped several states to close official inquiries.
Although the ASPCA told several reporters
that it might bring charges, at deadline apparently none
had been filed.
According to Skaggs, who teaches a fall-
semester-only two-unit course in “Cultural Jamming and
Media Activism” at the School of Visual Arts in
Manhattan, the hoax was “not to belittle Asians or ani-
mal rights organizations,” but was “to bring to light
issues of cultural bias, intolerance and racism,” and to
demonstrate how the media “plays a very important role
in the perpetuation of hatred and bias,” through being
“reactionary, gullible, and irresponsible.” Skaggs
admits to having pulled numerous hoaxes over the past
20-odd years, so many that media accounts sometimes
confuse genuine Skaggs hoaxes with similar stunts per-
formed by others––much to Skaggs’ annoyance.
Denies blame for 1-900-PRO-AVID
Skaggs denied involvement in a similar appar-
ent hoax perpetrated by Winfield Scott Stanley III,
whose purported American Vivisection Defense group in
Boston published advertisements soliciting donations of
pets to biomedical research in The Village Voice and The
San Francisco Bay Guardian during late April and early
May. Potential donors were to call a 92¢-a-minute num-
ber, 1-900-PRO-AVID, for details including a recipe
for veal and a promotion for fur. Stanley told B o s t o n
G l o b e reporter Scott Allen that he had been hired by a
man using the psuedonym Bobby Donka. That project
was closed down circa June 1, after an official USDA
investigation and a threat of lawsuit from American
Veterinary Identification Devices, a maker of microchip
pet ID equipment which also uses the name AVID.
Skaggs did, however, acknowledge contact
with Stanley at some point not long before the 1-900-
PRO-AVID ads began running. “I had never met him or
heard of him before he called me,” Skaggs stated. “He
is not a friend of mine. Nor did he know what I was
doing. I told him I was coincidentally doing a piece
about animals, but I never gave him any details.”
Allen, for one, is skeptical. “The Stanley
scam is a lot like consumer fraud, since he was taking
money under a false front,” Allen told ANIMAL PEO-
PLE. “And what Skaggs did, regardless of whatever he
claims as his motivation, is a lot like ringing in a false
fire alarm. And once he’s admitted he’s a liar, what
kind of credibility does he have? Whatever point he has
to make about the truthfulness of the media is lost in his
own methods.”
Skaggs’ credibility was certainly challenged on
at least one point. Although he denied having responded
to anyone who called the Kea So Joo recorded message,
Robin Duxbury of Animal Rights Mobilization told
ANIMAL PEOPLE that a man feigning an Asian
accent called her, purportedly to arrange dog pickups,
two days after she left a message in an entrapment
attempt.
As to the purported viciousness of the response
Skaggs received from the humane community, a sheaf
of mostly anonymous letters he supplied to ANIMAL
PEOPLE looked much like the routine fulminations any
reporter receives after writing anything controversial.
––Merritt Clifton
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