As animal charity Humane Society International (HSI) closed down their thirteenth dog meat farm in South Korea, their latest rescue mission has exposed the long-suspected connection between South Korea’s puppy trade and the dog meat industry.

HSI has found all sizes and breeds of dogs at its previous dog meat farm closures; however, this is the first time the charity has discovered puppies being bred for pet trade alongside others destined to be electrocuted and butchered for meat to supply local restaurants. Pups that couldn’t be sold as pets could also end up at the slaughterhouse.

A mother dog inside a puppy mill is shown locked in a cage at a dog meat farm in Hongseong-gun, South Korea, on Thursday, January 10, 2019.

Nara Kim, a HSI/Korea campaigner, says, “The lines between puppy mills and dog meat farms are routinely blurred throughout South Korea, and with our latest dog farm closure we are exposing the shocking reality of that. These dogs are suffering at the hands of two abusive industries, their ultimate fate depending on whether they will sell for more money as a pet or for meat.

“They all start life in this depressing, squalid place, with the lucky few ending up being a loved companion whilst their cage mates are served at a restaurant or enter a chain of auctions where they are sold on to the next farmer to produce litter after litter of puppies. Korean consumers will be shocked to see that the dog meat they buy in restaurants or from markets could come from the very same dogs they see in the pet shop window. No matter where the dogs go, the conditions at this farm are horrifying.  

Jack Finn-Kelcey, Field Responder at HSI, kisses a dog at a dog meat farm in Hongseong-gun, South Korea, on Wednesday, February 13, 2019.

“The emaciated dogs have matted fur and untreated wounds. We found them cowering in rusty cages as they endure the bitter cold of the Korean winter. It is an immense relief to be able to rescue them and fly them to North America where we can work with partner organisations and begin their search for adoptive families. For them the nightmare is over, and we hope that by exposing their suffering we can hasten the end of the entire industry for good.”

More than 2.5 million dogs a year are reared on thousands of dog meat farms across South Korea. Although most people don’t regularly eat dog, it still remains popular during Bok days of summer in July and August, when its eaten as a soup called Bonsintang.

The horrific slaughter of the dogs include electrocution, taking up to five minutes to die, or sometimes hanging. The dog meat industry is currently neither legal or illegal in South Korea, but many provisions of the Animal Protection Act are routinely breached, such as the ban on killing animals in a brutal way and on killing them in public areas, or in front of other animals of the same species.

Kelly Donithan, Senior Specialist of Disaster Operations/Animal Protection and Crisis Response of HSI, kisses a dog at a dog meat farm in Hongseong-gun, South Korea, on Wednesday, February 13, 2019.

HSI works in partnership with dog farmers to rescue their dogs and transition their businesses to alternative, humane and more profitable enterprises such as crop growing or service trades. Sixty-year-old Farmer Lee, who ran this farm for eight year, is eager to leave his dog breeding days behind him. Mr Lee says he feels ashamed to be a dog farmer, but had no way out until he was introduced to HSI’s dog farm closure scheme by a former farmer with whom HSI had worked. Once HSI closes his farm and removes the dogs for rehoming, Mr Lee hopes to become a security guard with the help and financing provided by HSI for him to take a computer literacy training course.

Farmer Lee said, “From the very beginning, my entire family has been against my dog farming. All my daughters and my wife want me to close it, and they have never wanted to visit the farm. I feel very ashamed to be a dog meat farmer and a puppy mill farmer so I barely tell anyone what I’m doing.

“My business is also making no money now and it’s too hard to farm the dogs as I have back pain. Also, I’ve had a hard time with my neighbour complaining about the barking which meant I had to move my farm. I spend more money on this farm than I make from it. I think dog meat trade will die soon. I feel like it’s already ending.”

Pigs at a dog meat farm in Hongseong-gun, South Korea, on Wednesday, February 13, 2019.

In addition to the nearly 200 dogs, HSI/Korea is also rescuing three pigs who live on Mr Lee’s farm. Named by HSI, Mable, Martha and Maggie are mini-pigs originally bred for the pet trade, but at 50 kg in weight and growing, they were highly unlikely to find happy homes, and faced an uncertain future. As HSI’s legal contract with dog farmers obliges them to transition to strictly animal-friendly livelihoods, the pigs will shortly be starting a new life being cared for at a sanctuary being established with HSI’s partner group KARA.

Images by HSI/Korea.

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