Korea waits until after World Cup to legalize dog-eating
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1999:
SEOUL, South Korea––Stalling
for time, the South Korean Ministry of
Agriculture and Forestry reported to the
National Assembly on September 27 that it
would not recommend legalizing the sale of
dog meat for human consumption until after
the 2002 World Cup soccer finals, to avoid
bringing on an international boycott.
Coming 10 days after a protest
against dog and cat eating embarrassed South
Korean president Kim Dae-jung on a visit to
meet Australian leaders in Sydney, the
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry position
reprised the South Korean response to threats
of boycott issued by the International Fund for
Animal Welfare and other groups before the
1988 summer Olympic Games, held in Seoul.
Six times in the preceding 10 years,
South Korean officials pledged to ban dog-eating,
and sometimes pledged to ban cat-eating
too. Each time, however, the pledge went no
farther than moving dog-and-cat meat sales
away from tourist venues. Despite a loose prohibition
on selling “unsightly” food, consumption
of both dogs and cats reportedly increased.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
poundage data indicates that South Koreans
now eat as many as three million dogs per
year. A recent newspaper call-in poll reportedly
found that dog meat is the fifth most popular
form of flesh consumed by South Koreans,
albeit much less popular than fish, poultry,
pork, and beef. About 80% of respondents
apparently favored a proposal by opposition
legislator Kim Hong Sin to add dogs to the list
of livestock recognized for legal commercial
slaughter, but just 27.5%, believed to be
mostly middle-aged and older men, admitted
that they often eat dog meat.
Young respondents and women––
not proportionately represented––were said to
mostly oppose dog-eating.
Of the 45 million South Koreans,
about half are under age 25. The newspaper
poll data is therefore at best a shaky indicator
of public opinion. A probably still more representative
1993 IFAW-funded survey found
that 90% of Koreans agreed that animals have
feelings and emotions; 59% favored effective
humane laws; and 86% considered the usual
method of killing dogs for meat to be cruel.
Korean dog and cat killing for meat
is brutal even by Third World slaughter standards.
Dogs tend to be beaten for up to an
hour, killed by slow hanging, and dehaired by
blowtorch while still alive. The object is to
saturate their remains with adrenalin, which is
believed to impart “manly” qualities to the
consumers. Cats are often boiled alive, supposedly
improving the value of their liquified
remains as a tonic for elderly women.
Global awareness of the Korean
practices has soared in 1999 through the
Internet efforts of the Korean Animal
Protection Society, International Aid to
Korean Animals, Korea Animals Hope, and
Anti-Dogmeat Movement Headquarters. Each
project is led and chiefly funded by Koreans.
IFAW weighed in with a September
mailing citing a May 1999 Associated Press
expose of dog-eating in Seoul.
Comedian Jay Leno, hosting the
Tonight Show, drew further attention to dogeating
with an early October routine which
may have offended anti-dog-eating activists
more than it irritated the Korean government.
Dog-eating elsewhere in Asia is
chiefly associated with ethnic Chinese
enclaves––and remains common in China,
too, as IFAW Beijing representative Grace
Gabriel reminded the world via fax and e-mail
in mid-September after the People’s Daily
reported on a Ministry of Agriculture scheme
to obtain and breed St. Bernards for human
consumption. (See page 5.)
Other recent news about dogs in
China, approaching the 50th anniversary of
the Communist takeover of government, was
mostly just as dismal. “Animal control commissars,
fearing rabies, beat dogs to death on
the spot if their owners failed to produce proper
papers,” the October 11 edition of
But, at request of French actressturned-activist
Brigitte Bardot, Chinese president
Jiang Zemin in August banned feeding
live calves to African lions as an attraction at
the Beijing Badaling Wild Animal World.
Whether the ban will be obeyed will
require follow-up monitoring to determine.
The Animal Protection Institute exposed
essentially the same practice at a different
Chinese zoo in 1996. The management
claimed to have stopped it after being contacted
by expose author Keith Lyons, but that the
promise was kept has not been confirmed.
Meanwhile, Bardot said, Jiang
Zemin’s responsiveness gave her “huge comfort.”
She then asked him to act equally firmly
on behalf of bears kept caged at bile farms
with tubes in their stomachs, wildlife killed
for body parts, and dogs who are eaten.