This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.
Although less common today, dog meat consumption is still a serious issue in South Korea. Animal activists continue to fight against it and, recently, one group managed to save over 100 dogs from being slaughtered.
Animal activist group Humane Society International (HSI) rescued the animals from dog meat farms around the country as part of its initiative to close facilities that breed dogs for human consumption. The organisation estimates that about 2 million dogs are reared in thousands of dog farms in South Korea every year.
Eating dog meat is not explicitly banned in South Korea. Koreans from older generations believe that eating dog meat can enhance one’s sexual stamina. Some also eat them on "dog meat days," three days during the summer that Koreans believe are the hottest of the year. Some believe that eating dog meat helps them survive the heat. Animal rights activists in South Korea typically hold protests against dog meat consumption on dog meat days, which fall on July 16, July 26, and August 15 this year.
According to HSI, 60 of the over 100 dogs they rescued in the past few months all came from a single dog meat farm. At these farms, dogs are placed in small cages, live surrounded by animal waste and garbage, and rarely undergo health checks.
"Most dogs live their entire lives in barren wire cages without adequate shelter or veterinary care until they are slaughtered, usually by electrocution or hanging," the HSI said in a statement.
The group has freed more than 2,000 dogs and closed 16 dog farms since 2015, local news media reported. Apart from destroying dog cages, farmers also sign a 20-year contract promising not to breed dogs or other animals. To help keep these farms closed, HSI provides dog meat farmers with alternative sources of income.
The over 100 dogs rescued this year left for the United States on July 16, where they will stay in animal shelters in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and New York.
According to the list HIS provided, the dogs are now up for adoption at various animal welfare associations, including Angels of Assisi in Virginia and Animal Haven in New York. To adopt dogs, people need to contact the listed shelters directly to submit necessary documentation.
While pet ownership is increasing in South Korea, most people still prefer to buy their pets rather than adopt. Only 0.8 percent of pet owners adopted abandoned dogs in 2019, according to the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Welfare.
There is also much left to do when it comes to animal rights in the country. According to the Korean Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency, animal testing increased by 10 percent from 2018 to 2019. These experiments are common in the pharmaceutical or chemical industries, and were found to inflict extreme pain on animals.
Earlier this month, lawmakers created a bill that aims to rescue pets from abusive owners. The government also created the Korean Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods (KoCVAM) in 2009, an agency that aims to reduce animal testing and find alternative testing methods.