Korean animal advocacy after the soccer World Cup–and looking toward China

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2002:

SEOUL–What came out of four years of
escalating protest against South Korean
torture-killing of dogs and cats for human
consumption, focused on the 2002 World Cup
soccer tournament?
Exactly as predicted by International Aid
for Korean Animals founder Kyenan Kum and her
sister Sunnan Kum, founder of the Korean Animal
Protection Society, pro-dog meat legislators
waited until after the World Cup was over and
most western visitors and news media left Korea.
Then the legislators dusted off and again began
touting a bill promoted several times previously,
which seeks to repeal the weak 1991 South Korean
ban on the sale of dog meat and cat meat. The
bill would authorize the establishment of
commercial dog-slaughtering plants, on the
pretext that such facilities could be inspected
by the agriculture ministry, and would therefore
be “humane.”

Dog and cat slaughtering locations are
presently not inspected because dogs and cats are
not officially recognized as fit for human
The Korean Animal Protection Society
meanwhile announced on August 16 that it plans to
file lawsuits against the Minister of Health and
the Food and Drug Administration “in the tens and
hundreds,” seeking enforcement of a series of
edicts against the sale of dog and cat meat
issued sporadically since 1984, culminating in
the 1991 law. Distribution of dog meat soup
samples during the World Cup by the National Dog
Meat Restaurants Association, the Kum sisters
pointed out, was a particularly flagrant
violation of the law, which forbids the public
sale or consumption of “unsightly” foods.
As IAKA and KAPS hoped, the World Cup
was nearly overshadowed at times by the intensity
of global coverage of dog-eating, especially,
with lighter attention to cat consumption. The
Spanish soccer team adopted as their mascot a
puppy who was purchased at a dog meat market by a
reporter who was traveling with the team.
Demonstrations in Seoul by visiting members of
PETA, the Scottish group Advocates for Animals,
and others attracted TV time, and various
photographers and videographers established that
despite South Korea promises that the notorious
Moran Market would be cleaned up, dogs, cats,
rabbits, and poultry are still caged and killed
there in the same filth and misery documented by
ANIMAL PEOPLE in May 2001.
A new protest front opened in late June
when National Federation of Badger Groups (U.K.)
trustee Steve Jackson discovered while
web-browsing that a Korean entity called the Osan
Badger Farm appears to raise badgers for human
consumption under conditions similar to those
suffered by the dogs and cats raised for
Very little of the western attention to
the Korean animal markets and eating practices
translated into material support for further
campaigning, however, and relatively little of
the protest activity even attempted to enlist
Koreans, even though only 7% of Koreans actively
participate in either dog-eating or
cat-eating–about the same as the percentage of
Americans who hunt.
Some western coverage favored
dog-and-cat-eating, including some commentators
syndicated by newsmedia associated with the
Unification Church, founded by South Korean
evangelist Sun Mying Moon,
“Why are most fingers pointing at Korea?”
asked John Fiffer in the Toronto Star. “Dog is
[also] eaten in China, Taiwan, Burma,
Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, Ghana, and the
The Fiffer essay appeared while the South
Korean embassy in Ottawa was reportedly seeking a
permit from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
to import dog meat. The application was
withdrawn after the CFIA pointed out the
inspection and sanitation standards that would
have to be met.
Asian animal defenders meanwhile made
plain that while dog-eating may be an entrenched
vice in many nations, it is rarely a mainstream
practice–and in most Asian nations, it never
“The majority of Asians abhor and condemn
the practice of dog-eating,” Animal Concerns
Research and Education Society president Louis Ng
told news media at a June 13 rally in Singapore
attended by representatives of humane groups in
12 Asian nations. “Dogs are historically an
integral part of our family,” Ng continued.
“Therefore we ask our Korean brothers to help
stop dog-eating.”
Other Asians sought to distance
themselves from the Korean practices by deed as
well as word:
* Caught in mid-May stealing dogs for
sale to meat markets in Pnom Penh, Cambodia,
Chea Sarith, 38, and Chan Sopheak, 22,
escaped formal prosecution, but were embarrassed
by prominent news coverage of their actions.
* Taweep Thewin, governor of ├čakon
Nakhon, Thailand, on June 6 instructed his
government to enforce a somewhat paradoxical
provision of law which forbids the sale of dog
meat without actually making it illegal.
“It is time the world stopped viewing
Sakon Nakhon as ‘the City of Dog-eating,'”
Thewin said.
Located in the northeastern part of
Thailand, Sakon Nakhon received a heavy influx
of dog-eating ethnic Chinese refugees from
Vietnam in the years immediately following the
Vietnam War. The city of Tha Rae became known for
dog-eatiug during that era.
“Dog meat is no longer available in Tha
Rae,” The Straits Times reported, “although the
dog meat slaughterhouses are still there.”
Unlike the ethnic Chinese immigrants,
who are mostly Confuscians, Thais of ethnic Thai
descent are mostly Buddhists, and consider
dog-eating offensive.
* Yuri Zyastinov, 40, of Barnaul,
Siberia, was on July 10 convicted of 10 counts
of cruelty to animals for bludgeoning dogs to
sell their meat. “That one killing was carried
out in front of his young niece was considered an
aggravating circumstance,” Agence France-Presse
reported. Zyastinov drew a two-year suspended
* The Hong Kong-based ParknShop
supermarket chain announced on August 9 that it
would cease selling dog meat at mainland Chinese
branches, after a week of rising boycott
pressure led by actress Gigi Fu Ming-hin, the
Hong Kong SPCA, and the Animals Asia Foundation.
The sale of dog meat by ParknShop was exposed on
August 2 by the South China Morning Post.
Possibly the greatest challenge ahead for
animal advocacy will be establishing strong
representation in China, which now has one
fifth of the world’s human population. Just a
handful of government agencies, nature clubs,
and mostly very small humane organizations look
out for animals, while growing affluence during
the past decade has stimulated consumption of
wildlife as luxury food and medicine on a scale
threatening to drive species from tigers to
turtles into regional extirpation, if not
Pangolins, an armored insectivorous
mammal resembling armadillos, are the species
currently in greatest demand. Thai wildlife
officials seized 1,944 pangolins from illegal
shipments heading to China in 2001, but seized
10,763 during just the first seven months of
2002. Hong Kong authorities seized nearly three
tons of pangolin scales from a single freight
container in late 2001, while Malaysian customs
officers discovered a cargo of 1,215 frozen
pangolins among a load of fish from Vietnam.
Among other notable recent seizures,
Thai inspectors on August 5 found 1,160 turtles
of various protected species in an air cargo
going to China–and found about 100,000 live
snakes plus 10,000 turtles aboard a convoy of
three large trucks intercepted just as they were
preparing to unload the reptiles to be barged
across the Mekong River into Laos. They were
then to have been taken on into China by way of
China has made some efforts to restrain
the illegal wildlife traffic, for instance
sending Beijing wildlife restaurant owner Tan
Hualing to prison for five and a half years on
June 5 and fining him heavily, for having
purchased four cobras, two pangolins, and two
protected lizards on the black market. His cook,
Chen Kejin, drew five years in prison.
Also in June, Hebei province banned the
production and export of frogs and frogs’ legs,
after the export of up to 2,000 tons of frogs’
legs per year coincided with heavy crop losses
due to proliferating insects.
Demographics, however, project
ecological disaster, if present consumptive
attitudes toward animals cannot be replaced–
quickly–with a view of reverence for all life.
This is not just because the Chinese
population is growing. Of even greater
importance is how it is growing–far out of
gender balance due to the ancient Chinese
cultural preference for male children, the
government policy restricting families to one
child, and the easy availability of ultrasound
examinations to determine the gender of fetuses,
together with ready access to abortion.
According to the Xinhua News Agency
Population Reference Bureau, Chinese male births
now exceed female births by 54/46. In Guangdong
and Hainan, the most affluent parts of China,
with respectively the most dog-eating and most
wildlife-eating, the birth ratio is 57 males to
43 females.
The imbalance suggests that the Chinese
population could soon drop for the first time in
centuries. Yet that may not help animals much.
Consumer profiles explain why: Chinese men,
like men in all societies tend to eat much more
meat of all types than women; eat an even more
lopsided share of total wildlife meat
consumption; and eating dog meat is almost
exclusively a male vice.
Men are also more affluent in China, as
elsewhere; single men eat most often at
restaurants; single men are most likely to eat
with other men; and men eating with other men
are most likely to order “status” meats –like
wildlife meat and dog meat.
Further, men in every culture tend to be
more resistant than women to accepting change,
especially in traditional and patriarchal
societies where change may bring diminished
status and privileges.
Men are also more likely than women to
mistreat or kill animals as part of a dominance
display directed at other humans.
Women, right around the world, are four
times more likely to become vegetarians, and are
more than four times more likely to support
humane work in every society where this has ever
been studied, except India, where the gender
ratio in humane work is almost equal.
Women head six of the nine humane
organizations known to be currently operating in
China, and probably make up the majority of
membership of all of them.
The gender imbalance actually projects an
increase of 14% in meat, wildlife, and dog
consumption over the next few decades even if
present per capita consumption by gender does not
If per capita consumption doubles, as
seems likely to occur with the projected rise in
affluence over the same time, assuming the
enough animals can be hunted or farmed to meet
the demand, the increase would be 28%.
Even if the total Chinese population fell
over the same interval, it would have to fall by
more than half–highly unlikely–just to bring
meat, wildlife, and dog consumption back to the
present levels, if the gender imbalance persists
and a societal turnabout in attitudes toward
animals does not soon develop.
The great future hope for China may
evolve through males without mates turning toward
pets for companionship, thereby developing
personal appreciation of animals.
Females may also be persuaded to make
male attitudes toward animals a major part of
their mate selection process.
The six years between now and the 2008
Beijing Olympics may afford animal advocates
their best chance to help build the effective
pro-animal movement in China that might bring the
necessary changes.

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