High-stakes games for animals
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2001:
SALT LAKE CITY, SEOUL– Choose the image that fits: a)
Sports are about character-building and moral growth; or b) Sports
are about domination, oppression, exploitation, and abuse.
Either image could apply, depending on the sport, the
arena, the event, and the athletes, but suppose you are a sports
promoter, and can represent just one.
Pick image a) and you might lose part of your TV audience to
the World Wrestling Federation, which in an August 2001 British
court verdict lost the right to use the initials “WWF” to the older
World Wildlife Fund. “Some would say World Wrestling Federation
glorification of violence is somewhat unsavory,” wrote Justice Robin
But accept image b), and if you are the International
Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, you have just belied 105
years of espousing higher ideals. If you are the International
Federation of Football Associ-ations, you are reassociating yourself
with soccer riots, after decades of trying to build a better-behaved
The members of the IOC, and even of their local arm, the
Salt Lake Organizing Committee, knew little about rodeo when in
February 2001 they agreed to let the Professional Rodeo Cowboys
Association hold an “Olympic Command Performance Rodeo” as part of
the Winter Olympic Cultural Program in Salt Lake City on February
9-11, 2002. Costing $200,000 to stage, the rodeo reportedly will
present mock Olympic gold, silver, and bronze medals to the winners.
A rodeo was also held as part of the Cultural Program at the
1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, but was only lightly protested–
mainly because most of the animal protection community heard nothing
The directors of FIFA knew nothing about the Korean practice
of torturing dogs and cats to death to make soups and tonics when
several years ago they agreed to let Seoul, South Korea, cohost the
2002 World Cup .
Thanks to Steve Hindi of SHARK and Kyenan Kum of
International Aid for Korean Animals, who have each mustered small
but dedicated global networks of volunteers, and often work in
alliance, the IOC and FIFA now know more than they want to about
both rodeo and dog-and-cat-eating.
E-mailed U.S. Olympic Committee president Sandra Baldwin, of
Phoenix, to Australian rodeo opponents Mr. and Mrs. T. Robinson, of
Maroubra, Australia, on November 2, “This is a program that the
Salt Lake Organizing Committee has approved. It is not a USOC
program, and assuredly is not a program we would have approved.”
After the Robinsons disclosed Bald-win’s brief message, in
entirety, Baldwin told Brady Snyder of the Salt Lake City Deseret
News that it had been read out of context, and that all she meant to
say was that the rodeo was not under USOC jurisdiction.
“I personally feel that rodeos are part of western heritage,”
Baldwin said–but she stopped short of actually endorsing the Command
On the one hand, Olympic officials are committed by contract
and custom to present athletic festivals that glorify the traditions
and identiy of the host nations.
On the other, the modern Olympic movement grew directly from
the notion that clean-living young people dedicated to fair play
should go forth before the world as secular missionaries. FIFA was
inspired in part by the example of World War I Scots and German
soldiers who emerged from their trenches at Christmas 1916 to kick a
rag ball around.
Both the Olympics and international soccer were offered as
antidotes to xenophobia and war.
The culture of teamwork prevalent in sports encourages
conformity to the mores of the host communities of athletic events.
Yet the most admired sports heroes are those who use their prominence
to stand up and speak out against whatever they believe is wrong.
Former Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Scott
Hamilton exemplified that tradition in October. Scheduled to be a TV
commentator during the Winter Olympic skating events, Hamilton asked
Baldwin to use her influence to cancel the Command Performance Rodeo.
“The Olympics is about competition amongst equals,” Hamilton
reminded Baldwin. “Although cowboys voluntarily participate in rodeo
events, the animals have no such choice.”
PETA spokesperson Kristie Phelps credited Hamilton with
persuading the Atlanta Organizing Committee to cancel a dove release
that was planned for the opening ceremony in 1996.
Multi-time Olympic biathlete and Salt Lake Organizing
Committee trustee Joan Guetschow also spoke against the rodeo.
Caught between the SHARK “Tiger” video display truck and the
PRCA, Salt Lake City Organizing Committee president Mitt Romney
initially defended the rodeo.
Then he asked the SLOC trustees if they wanted him to cancel
the rodeo, even though it is the top ticket-selling event of the
Cultural Olympiad. The trustees, despite opposition from Guetschow,
voted on November 9 that the show should go on.
But the trustees also asked Romney to meet with
representatives of SHARK and the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, whose
campaign against the rodeo is parallel but separately funded and
Conferring with Romney on Decem-ber 1 in Salt Lake City were
Steve Hindi, local campaigner Colleen Gardner, Vermont
veterinarian/attorney and long-ago barrel racer Peggy Larson, German
activist Mathilde Mench, and Tony Moore, president of the
Foundation Against Animal Cruelty in Europe. All flew in just for
“Throughout the meeting, we played compelling video images
of rodeo animal abuse, mainly calf-roping, on a big-screen
television,” Hindi said. “This had an effect on the SLOC members,
and the media also, including even reporters who have been very
pro-rodeo. Romney said he would look into eliminating calf-roping,
that there would be no electric prods allowed, and that all the PRCA
rules would be enforced,” which has rarely if ever occurred at any
of the rodeos that SHARK members have videotaped.
“Romney also said he would consider having independent
documenters on site,” Hindi continued. “The rodeo folks are now
moaning and groaning about having any documenters, and they are out
of their minds with anger over the thought of calf-roping being
eliminated. We appreciate Romney’s efforts,” Hindi added, noting
that they paralled a November 12 pledge by the Illinois Agriculture
Department to begin inspecting rodeos and enforcing rodeo-related
violations of the state humane law.
Nonetheless, Hindi acknowledged, “We still hope the rodeo
will be cancelled.”
Hindi said he was “now preparing to fly to Switzerland, to
join our European friends in urging the IOC to halt the rodeo.”
The effort against the Command Performance Rodeo was endorsed
on November 13 by Maneka Gandhi of India, founder of People for
Animals and a longtime independent member of the Indian national
parliament. In 1999 Mrs. Gandhi was instrumental in helping SHARK to
persuade Pepsi Cola to stop advertising at bullfights. She sent her
message of support for the anti-rodeo campaign amid a cabinet-level
power struggle that came to a head toward midnight on November 18,
when Bharatija Janata Party prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
stripped her of her position as minister of culture, apparently to
make points with Congress Party president and parliamentary
opposition leader Sonia Gandhi.
As Harish Khare of The Hindu summarized, “The two
daughters-in-law of the late prime minister Indira Gandhi have a
distinctly sour and unfriendly relationship.”
Maneka Gandhi retained ministerial authority over animal welfare.
While the anti-rodeo campaign has a simple and direct focus,
the World Cup campaign is about seeking leverage. Korean Animal
Protection Society founder Sunnan Kum and her sister, IAKA founder
Kyenan Kum, have no quarrel with either the World Cup organizing
committee or FIFA president Sepp Blatter. The Kum sisters have
called for a boycott of the World Cup since 1998 simply because it is
the most prominent international event on the Korean calendar, and
therefore may be their best chance to enlist worldwide pressure
toward seeking ongoing enforcement and improvement of a 1991 law that
banned the sale of “unsightly foods” for human consumption.
Supposedly this law was to halt the sale of dogs, cats, and snakes
E-mailed Kyenan Kum to supporters on November 21, “Thousands
of protest letters poured into FIFA president Blatter’s offices in
Switzerland, urging him to use his power to stop the slaughter of
dogs and cats in South Korea, or face a worldwide boycott. As a
result, Blatter has pledged his support to help end animal cruelty
in South Korea.”
Indeed, circa November 5, Blatter urged FIFA vice
president Chung Mong-Joon, who is also president of the South Korean
football federation, to “take immediate and decisive measures to put
an immediate end” to the cruelties of the dog-and-cat-meat trade.
“The World Cup would serve as an appropriate moment for Korea
to show the world that it is senstive to vociferous worldwide public
opinion, and that it rejects cruelty,” Blatter suggested.
But Kyenan Kum also noticed that FIFA statements can be
contradictory. “In a November 6, 2001 media release issued from
FIFA’s Swiss headquarters,” Kum wrote, “it is stated that Blatter
and FIFA vice president Chung Mong-Joon of Korea have personally
intervened in an effort to stop cruelty to animals in Korea. Yet in
a November 12 report from BBC Online, Dr. Chung is quoted as saying,
“There is nothing to worry about.”
Chung, however, was not the only involved person to speak
out of both sides of his mouth. On July 24, as reported in the
July/August edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, Seoul mayor Goh Kun stated his
own belief, in a letter to activist Samantha Pearl, that animals
should not be mistreated, and stated that he had forwarded criticism
of the Moran market, the largest Korean venue for sales of
dog-and-cat meat, to the responsible authorities.
By November 16, however, Goh Kun was defending dog meat.
“There are two words for dog in Korea,” he explained in an interview
with Reuters. “One word is for pets and the other is for dogs bred
for meat.” he said. And he opined that FIFA would not have have
objected to the Korean practices of dog-and-cat eating, “if they had
known the truth about this issue,” as if the name of a dog had
anything to do with whether he should be tortured and killed.
On November 24, Kyenan Kum updated, “The Korean government
has made several statements of late expressing a willingness to do
something to appease foreign opposition to dog-and-cat-meat
consumption. Their plan, however, does not involve enforcing the
1991 ban on the sale of dog meat,” as the Kum sisters ask.
Continued Kyenan Kum, “The Shanghai Daily quotes Lin
Byung-talk, the director of public relations for the World Cup
organizers, as saying, ‘Should dog meat make foreign visitors feel
uneasy, we will make an effort to improve the conditions [of the
markets where they are sold].’
“We will not simply settle for improved conditions or more
sanitary slaughtering practices,” Kyenan Kum vowed. “We are
pressing for a complete ban on the torture, slaughter, sale as
meat, and consumption of dogs and cats.”
Much as the defenders of rodeo claim that it is a cultural
heritage, Kyenan Kum pointed out, “Korean officials argue that the
anti-dog-and-cat-eating campaign is merely a disguised attempt to
strip Koreans of their ‘cultural heritage.’ They never mention that
many individuals supporting the cause, including Sunnan, myself,
and Anti Dog-Meat Headquarters founder Dr. Sang Ook Yoon, are
Korean. Further, we are Koreans who refute the claim that
dog-and-cat-eating even are longstanding cultural traditions.”
The Kum sisters and Yoon contend that until the past 40
years, Koreans ate dogs and cats only in times of extreme hardship.
“Even if eating dog meat is part of a country’s dining
culture, that habit must be stopped, as we do not live in the
Middle Ages any more,” commented French actress-turned-activist
Brigitte Bardot in a November 27 telephone interview with a Korean
“I accept differences of culture in all countries. I accept
that many people eat beef,” Bardot said. “But a cultured country
does not allow its people to eat dogs.”
Said Associated Press, “Bardot was exasperated and hung up
when radio station anchor Sohn Suk-hee asked whether she knew that
some westerners have talked fondly about eating dog meat on visits to
Said Bardot, “French people, German people, and Americans
never eat dogs. If they ate dogs in South Korea, it was most likely
that South Koreans served them dog meat, saying it was either pork
or beef. I no longer want to continue this interview, because I
cannot talk to liars.”
In fact, U.S. and Canadian media repeatedly alleged in 2001
that a clandestine trade in dog and cat meat has grown up among
recent Asian immigrants–but a February 2001 “expose” in the Lower
Mainland Post, a Vancouver-area weekly, offered no specifics.
The source of rumors that a prominent Chinese/American chef
wanted to start a chain of dog meat restaurants turned out to be the
September 11 edition of Weekly World News, a tabloid known for
A Southern California resident named Rudy Allen sent ANIMAL
PEOPLE a long letter and brochure detailing years of efforts to
expose and close alleged Korean/ American dog meat vendors in the Los
Angeles area. Some of the allegations were said to have aired on
local television, but none had resulted in convictions,
prosecutions, or even arrests, due to lack of hard evidence.
The most recent public allegation of a significant U.S.
traffic in dog meat was broadcast by WPIX-TV reporter Polly Kreisman,
of New York City, on November 19 and 20. Claiming that her story
resulted from a six-month probe by the Humane Society of the U.S.,
Kreisman purported to have caught a Korean/American dog meat dealer
who lives near Wurtsboro, New York, in the act of selling a dog’s
carcass, labeled with a deer tag. But the investigators apparently
paid the alleged dealer to produce the dead dog, thereby creating a
commerce rather than documenting one that already existed.
Independent local sources told ANIMAL PEOPLE that the
accused individual verifiably had only the same two yard dogs he had
kept for years, plus some chickens; had some old trailers in a
woodlot that could have been used for almost anything, but might
also just have been junk; and was blamed by neighbors for the
disappearance of dogs, in an area teeming with coyotes.
A similar attempted video sting by Last Chance for Animals
founder Chris de Rose resulted in a court case against the late dog
dealer Erwin Stebane, of Wisconsin, in 1993–but the charges were
thrown out when the judge learned that de Rose had hired his key
witnesses, an Asian/American couple, to pay Stebane to kill a dog
The USDA was already within days of filing separate charges,
pertaining to bad recordkeeping, which put Stebane permanently out
of the dog business.
In isolated cases, a man believed to be a 38-year-old
Cambodian who speaks no English, but told police his name was Ket
Ket, was arrested on November 11 for allegedly killing and trying to
roast a dog in a vacant lot in Camden, New Jersey; and Youkhana
Moshi, 21, of Etobicoke, Ontario, on November 30 pleaded guilty
to five out of 10 criminal charges brought against him, two of which
pertain to severely beating a 12-year-old Pomeranian and leaving his
body to burn on a propane grill. A 17-year-old girl, whose pet the
Pomeranian was for seven years, was convicted of cruelty in late
November as an alleged willing accomplice in the killing.
And a happy ending
But in a heartening sign that attitudes are changing in
Korea, a 13-year-old cat named Colin’s on December 4 returned home
to the Westgate Tanker Terminal in New Plymouth, New Zealand, after
surviving three weeks of rough seas as a stowaway aboard the South
Korean methanol tanker Tomiwaka.
Colin’s got her name when feeder/ rescuer Colin Butler found
her as an abandoned newborn and kept her alive for two weeks in a
pocket. Grown, Colin’s became the port mascot.
“Koreans loved her immediately, despite their fondness for
cat soup,” wrote Scott MacLeod of the New Zealand Herald. “Korean
sailors would yell, ‘Where’s cat?’ whenever they visited Port
Taranaki. A Korean engineer took Colin’s aboard the Tomiwaka for a
feed,” just before the ship left port, MacLeod continued, and a
furor broke out when the dock crew learned she was gone.
Korean sailors have long been notorious throughout Southeast
Asia for allegedly stealing and eating cats. Visakha SPCA founder
Pradeep Kumar Nath, of Visakhapat-nam, India, recalls several
times catching Korean sailors in the act of buying cats from local
thieves during the 1980s, and once he sneaked aboard a docked ship
to rescue several doomed cats from a storeroom.
But no one harmed Colin’s. South Korean officials expedited
her passage through the paperwork necessary for her to fly home
without enduring quarantine. The Whiskas pet food company covered
her air fare.
Television audiences in both New Zealand and South Korea
rejoiced when Colin’s and Butler were reunited.