Just 11 weeks ahead of South Korea’s ‘Bok Nal: Days of Dog’ meat eating ritual, animal welfare organisation Humane Society International (HSI) has rescued 171 dogs, shutting down a dog meat farm in Wonju.

The Asian country celebrates the days of summer by consuming large quantities of dog meat ‘boshintang’ stew and the rescued dogs were otherwise destined to be killed and eaten at the country’s ritual.

The 171 dogs are part of the final cohort of 250 dogs and puppies rescued by HSI from one of the dog meat farm in Wonju, the fifth such farm that the charity has closed down as part of its campaign to end the eating of dogs in South Korea. The dogs are being flown to shelters and rescues in the United States and Canada.

Photo Credit: Meredith Lee/HSI

The groups accepting dogs are part of The Humane Society of the United States’ Emergency Placement Partner program, for a second chance at life. HSI is The HSUS’ international affiliate. Working together with placement partners, hundreds of dogs from previous dog meat farm closures have already found wonderful homes. Working in partnership with the Wonju farmer who contacted HSI last year for help getting out of the dog meat business, HSI is also overseeing the destruction of hundreds of now empty wire cages.

Andrew Plumbly, campaign manager for HSI, who assisted in the dog rescue, said: “It’s a huge relief to rescue these dogs and get them to safety, knowing that in just a few weeks’ time during Bok Nal, they would likely have ended up being killed and eaten. The conditions on these farms is truly shocking. It’s factory-farming of dogs in row upon row of bare wire cages, filthy with faeces. The dogs live in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety. But the miserable existence they have endured is finally over, and the happy homes that await them in the USA and Canada couldn’t be more different. They will at last get to run and play and know what it feels like to be loved as a family friend.”

Most people in South Korea don’t regularly eat dogs, and the practice is increasingly out of favour with the younger generation. However, during the summer months – and particularly the hottest days of Bok Nal between 17 July and 16 August – dog meat stew will be widely consumed even by those who never normally eat it, in the unfounded belief that it cools the blood. Hundreds of thousands of dogs will be slaughtered at this time, as an estimated 60-80 percent of the entire year’s dog meat is eaten in just two months, most often at one of South Korea’s thousands of dedicated dog meat restaurants.

Darby, pictured departing. Photo Credit: Meredith Lee/HSI

An estimated 2.5-3 million dogs endure extreme deprivation on these farms every year, confined their whole lives in small, barren wire cages without any comfort or proper care, until the day they are killed, usually by electrocution. Dog farmers intensively breed dogs throughout the year, but often wait to sell them for slaughter at Bok Nal when they will fetch the highest price. A large dog can fetch around £120 each, with a bowl of dog meat stew selling for as little as £3-£6.

Most people in South Korea never visit a dog meat farm and are unaware of the suffering experienced by the dogs. There is also a widespread misconception that farmed dogs are somehow different in nature to companion dogs, a myth that Humane Society International is keen to dispel. On every farm closed so far by HSI, a mixture of breeds has been discovered including large mastiffs, Jindo mixes, golden retrievers, beagles and Chihuahuas. Alerting Koreans to the fact that these are no different to the dogs we live with at home, is a key part of HSI’s message.

Plumbly said: “In our experience, many dog meat farmers are keen to leave this business behind them, and come under increasing pressure from their children to end dog breeding and killing. However, they need help in transitioning to an alternative living, so that’s where HSI steps in. Ultimately we need the South Korean government to get involved in phasing out dog farming and banning dog eating, and with the Winter Olympics coming up in Pyeongchang in 2018, we are urging politicians to work with us to consign the eating of dogs to the history books.”

HSI is working in countries across Asia to end the grisly dog meat trade. Efforts include: intercepting trucks crammed with dogs headed for slaughter in China; providing expertise to train officials for improved enforcement of laws and humane rabies elimination in Vietnam; and helping dog meat farmers in South Korea transition to more humane ways of making a living.

For more information visit hsi.org/dogmeat

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