As World Watches Pyeongchang Olympics, Activists Focus Attention on Korea's Horrific Dog Meat Trade

A new generation of heroes has emerged in South Korea, and they are my friends and colleagues. Last weekend, as viewers around the world tuned in to watch skating, skiing, hockey, and other sports at the Winter Games, I waited for news from the Humane Society International rescue team working just down the road from Pyeongchang. They were there to save animals and close down a dog meat farm. I’m so proud of my team and relieved that the dogs, who would have ended up being slaughtered, now have a chance at a better life.

In recent years, The HSUS and HSI have been carrying out a global campaign against the dog meat trade, with dramatic results in South Korea. The situation there is unusual because it is the only nation in which thousands of commercial farmers actually raise dogs for human consumption. We’ve made this work a special focus and we continue to save dogs, shutter farms and help the farmers transition to humane livelihoods. Over the last three years, we have rescued more than 1,200 animals from South Korean dog meat farms and brought their stories to global audiences.

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Humane Society International team members and local activists at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, with the mobile awareness campaign truck, "Look Inside a Dog Meat Farm." (Photo by HSI)

I’ve been on two of these rescue missions, so I know what my friends faced there. Each one of these operations is a hell of its own, the animals starving and in need of veterinary attention, living in cramped, filthy, and reeking boxes and cages, day after day, month after month. And it’s always the same when you walk down the long rows of cages. No matter how hungry, hurt or maltreated they are, most of these dogs are just so desperate for affection that they hurl themselves against the front of their cages, wagging their tales, hoping for just one kind touch.

We anticipated long ago that Pyeongchang would present a special opportunity for the world community to challenge South Korea to accelerate efforts to close its dog meat farms and end the dog meat trade, and we’ve torqued up our message, our pressure campaigns and our deployments to that end. It’s night and day since we first became active in South Korea. In addition to the dogs we’ve saved, our campaign has attracted massive global publicity, and together with our Korean partner groups, we have helped spark a serious debate among Korean citizens about dog meat consumption, and instilled new will among legislators there to challenge and suppress the trade.

We’ve even moved several state legislatures here in the United States on this issue, and in the U.S. Congress we have been instrumental in supporting the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act (H.R. 1406) to ban the domestic slaughter, trade and import and export of dogs and cats for human consumption in the United States, which would strengthen our campaign for a global ban.

In addition to my HSI colleagues, athletes like Meagan Duhamel, Lindsay Jacobellis and Gus Kenworthy, and Korean celebrities like actor Daniel Henney and animal behaviorist Hunger Kang, have been doing their part, underscoring their commitment to abolishing the dog meat trade, and working with HSI and other groups to bring dogs home. They’re heroes, too.

We have no illusions about securing an end to the dog meat trade by the close of the games. That’s going to take a lot longer. But we’re confident that the work we’ve done has made banning the trade a serious possibility. Moreover, the dogs we rescued will come away as winners. They’ll be getting the love and care they so deserve in Korea and other countries in the weeks to come. And with your help and support, we’ll go back for more dogs very soon.

HSI has also been working to end dog meat consumption in other countries, like China, home to a nationwide and year-round trade that costs the lives of millions of dogs and cats, including at the infamous annual Yulin dog meat festival. Last year, after discussions with government officials, protests and petitions launched by HSI and its partners, and the global media attention we’ve focused, a more scaled-down version of the festival occurred; but there, too, our fight is far from over.

Late last year, HSI and local affiliates began working in Indonesia to end dog meat consumption there, and in January the Dog Meat Free-Indonesia coalition, which includes HSI, released a heartrending video exposing the cruelty of live animal markets in that country. As a result of our efforts, many countries and territories across Asia have already banned the dog meat trade or consumption of dogs, including the Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and demand for dog meat is declining throughout the region.

Throughout our 60-year history, The HSUS and our affiliates have always been ready to take on the big fights to help animals, and that’s never going to change. We’re pushing a ballot measure in Ohio to improve the lives of tens of thousands of dogs trapped in puppy mills. In Arizona, we’re gearing up for a big fight over the hunting and trapping of mountain lions and big cats. And in California, we’re laying the groundwork for a public vote on the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, an initiative to strengthen standards for farm animal welfare in that important state.

Each one of these battles is the kind of fight you expect your HSUS to take on and win. And we will. Stand with us.

This article was originally published by A Humane Nation. Reprinted with permission.

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