This summer I travelled to Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, to campaign against the dog meat trade with the charity Save Korean Dogs. The previous year the charity’s founder, Nami Kim, had appealed for Westerners to come to her city to demonstrate outside government buildings to try to catch the attention of politicians and the press. Like many people, I had seen stories about the cruel dog meat trade in some Asian countries on social media. The stories and the faces of the dogs in the pictures tormented me until I decided that signing petitions and donating money just wasn’t enough from me. I had to do more. I wanted to meet and work with Nami Kim, one of the leading lights in the fight against the dog meat trade in her native country. She closes down dog meat farms and rescues dogs, while also campaigning at a government level to try to ban the trade.
Although eating dogs is in decline in South Korea, there are still an estimated 2.5 million dogs killed annually to satisfy the demand of dog meat restaurants. Eating dog is thought to cool the blood during the hottest seasons, give strength and improve libido, claims which are unfounded in science. The majority of Koreans would never eat dog but this still leaves about 27% of the population who do. The dogs are killed in the most unjustifiably cruel manners in the belief that the more an animal suffers the more medically potent and tastier the meat will be. Dogs are tortured by beating and burning and death comes from hanging, electrocution or being boiled alive.
Many people said how grateful they were to us for bringing this to people’s attention and about how they were embarrassed and ashamed that this was happening in their own country.
I went to Korea, not as a Westerner telling other countries what to do but as a supporter of the majority of the Korean people who are very upset about this trade in their own country. I really wanted to like Korea and the Koreans and I am very happy to say that I did. How can I expect a nation of people to like and respect my opinions if I don't even like and respect them? The people are polite and very sweet and I felt safe there. The campaigning involved holding placards outside government buildings with the roasting Asian sun beating down on my fair Scottish complexion or standing, drowned-rat-like, in the monsoons. I had moments of doubt as to the effectiveness of all this but the response I received from the public was mainly very positive and encouraging. Many people said how grateful they were to us for bringing this to people’s attention and about how they were embarrassed and ashamed that this was happening in their own country. These were my happiest moments while I was there - to see that we were empowering Koreans to make a change.
I was delighted when our perseverance eventually paid off. We were interviewed by five major TV stations and eight newspapers. The reporters were initially intrigued as to why foreigners had taken such an interest in matters in their country but eventually the most important issue - that of eating dogs - was focused on and the story was subsequently picked up on by even more of the media. People read or watched these articles and came to say thank you and bring us cold drinks to counteract the dire heat. We were also invited to a meeting at the National Assembly, the country’s seat of government, and this discussion is continuing between Save Korean Dogs and politicians on how to improve welfare for dogs in their country. Thailand has been a leading example of how this can be achieved in Asia, due to actions like these being taken - it has banned the consumption of dogs and prohibited dog trafficking, and the way it enforces its Animal Welfare Act, introduced in 2014, would put Western countries to shame.
The majority of Koreans would never eat dog but this still leaves about 27% of the population who do.
These were amazing results for a Scots lass with no political clout and who couldn’t even speak the language. I just worked hard and saved my earnings from my low paid job as a part-time auxiliary nurse in order to travel to the other side of the world for three weeks and thankfully my dedication and determination paid off.
I am committed to helping Nami and Save Korean Dogs fight this cruel trade until it is abolished. The Winter Olympics are being held in PyeongChang in 2018 and we feel this is a good date for the government to aim for to ban dog-eating and improve the image of their country. The people and the dogs of Korea deserve this.