Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dog Meat, and Cultural Conquistadors

The Korean has already touched upon dog meat in Korea in a previous post, which is one of the most frequently read posts on this blog. But because the post attempted to cover both the facts about Korea's dog meat consumption, the Korean's own opinion, and additional questions regarding that topic, it has become a bit unwieldy.

Recently, the BusanHaps magazine ran a couple of stories about dog meat. The second story was written by Ms. Frankie Herrington, who wishes to abolish dog meat from Korea. The Korean figured that this would be a good chance to present a cleaner and more focused argument about why dog meat consumption in Korea must not be banned, and about how dog meat abolitionists -- both Korean and non-Korean -- are making things worse by standing in the way of reasonable regulations. Haps was gracious enough to allow me to submit the story, which is reproduced below. (Warning:  it's long.)

Just a couple of points to make before we get into the op-ed. The story has been up on the Haps magazine for about three days now, and the discussion in the comments section has been, ahem, lively. In the Korean's opinion, the two takeaways from the discussion on the board so far are:

1. CARE, one of Korea's leading animal rights organizations that opposes regulating the dog meat industry, essentially confirmed the Korean's point in its comment:
"The reality is: passing the Animal Protection Law does very little in terms of enforcement and punishment of cruelty to animals. This is a sad reality. We can prove this by pointing to the fact that dogs are still hanged for food and crammed into cages during transportation, despite clear language in the APL saying it is forbidden. So, why support the APL? Because doing so sends a message of opposition to people who abuse animals. We want to deter people from acting cruelly to animals, even if the law has no real biting power.

Regulating the dog meat industry would also do very little in terms of changing the industry to more humane standards. If the government were to make dog meat "legal" and "regulated," it would be sending a message of compliance; i.e. it is OK to eat regulated dog meat "because the dogs are riased [sic] and killed humanely.""
As discussed in the op-ed, the Korean's point was that animal rights groups, including CARE, are not actually in the business of improving animals' lives; rather, they are in the business of culture war. By this comment, CARE frankly states that it approaches legislation as a means to send messages, rather than as a means to actually improve the lives of meat dogs.

2.  It is self-evident from the exchanges in the comment section which side of the debate is more serious and level-headed, and which side is hyper-emotional and irrational. Except for a few high notes struck by CARE (which the Korean does appreciate) and one or two other commenters, the behavior of the anti-dog meat crowd has been a display on everything bad about discourse on the Internet.

Having said that, the full op-ed is available after the jump.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


I have a common sense solution to resolve, once and for all, most of the controversy surrounding Korea’s dog meat consumption. It goes like this:

Regulate the slaughter, processing and consumption of dog meat just like any other meat, because right now, dog meat in Korea is not being regulated as much as it should be. The Livestock Processing Act of Korea regulates the processing of any meat, from slaughter to cooking. Although the Livestock Processing Act covers even the types of meat rarely eaten by Koreans (such as venison, geese and donkey,) dog is a conspicuous absence from the definition of “livestock.” Unregulated by the Livestock Processing Act, meat dog ranching in Korea right now is a deplorable free-for-all, with only the brutal economics governing the way in which the dogs are treated. Dogs are confined in a small cage, often sitting in their own excrement, being fed god-knows-what. The slaughter can happen in just about any manner, and the transportation of live dogs or their meat has no restrictions or guidelines. To anyone with conscience, the meat dogs’ life and death in Korea are appalling.

Meat dogs in a dog farm.
It is in nobody’s interest that this under-regulation continues. Animal lovers are rightfully distressed by the meat dogs’ poor living conditions. People who like dog meat would much rather be assured that their food is prepared in a hygienic manner. (Plus, meat from a stressed-out animal tastes terrible.) Even dog meat restauranteurs would prefer to guarantee the safety of their food, and shed the dingy-hole-in-the-wall image of their industry.

So this is my proposal: Regulate the dog meat industry just like any other farm animal industry. Ensure that the dogs are given enough space to move in their confinement, ensure that the dogs live in clean conditions eating hygienic feed, and limit the means of slaughter only to the humane kinds applied to other livestock, such as the kind applied to cattle in an abattoir. Once slaughtered, keep the meat hygienic and refrigerated, before it reaches the consumers.

This proposal should be easy to implement, as the proposal is nearly Pareto-optimal – that is, almost everyone would benefit from the proposal with little or no downside. Animal lovers will have less suffering by dogs, dog meat eaters will get better-tasting and more hygienic food, and dog meat merchants will have a chance to take their business to a more upscale, high-margin industry. There is little reason to worry that the Korean government would be at a loss at carrying out the law, as it has plenty of experience in how to regulate a livestock industry.

Of course, there certainly will be some dog meat industry workers who would grumble at the new regulation, and some dog meat customers who would complain about the inevitably higher price of their favorite dish. But those people neither have the political will, nor the means to truly stop the government from implementing such a common-sensical rule, which applies to just about all farm animals in Korea except dogs.

Common Sense, and Those Who Oppose It

You might ask: If my proposal were so common-sensical, why hasn’t it be tried yet? Oh, but it was tried before. In March 2008, the Seoul city government determined that it was problematic for the city to have over 500 dog meat restaurants that did not receive comprehensive hygiene inspection, as dog meat was not covered by the Livestock Processing Act. Therefore, the Seoul city government announced that it planned to recommend the national government for the law to include “dog” in the law’s definition of “livestock.” However, within days after the announcement, Seoul city government dropped the plan.

But why? Who could possibly oppose such common sense proposal that would have improved not only the welfare of the people who eat dog meat, but also the welfare of the dogs that were raised for human consumption, in the form of better living conditions?

Protesters against "legalization" of dog meat in front of Seoul city hall, circa July 2008.
Answer: Animal rights organizations. Animal rights activists gathered in front of the Seoul city hall only a day after Seoul city announced its plan for recommendation, to protest the “legalization” of dog meat. The two major animal rights groups of Korea, Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) and Korean Animal Rights Advocates (KARA), met with Seoul city officials several times to demand that the city retract its plan to recommend changing the Livestock Processing Act. In response, Seoul city stepped back from recommending the national government to change the Livestock Processing Act. The city, however, insisted that it could not compromise on hygiene inspection.

As promised, in April 2008, Seoul city government began conducting limited hygiene inspection on dog meat restaurants pursuant to Food Hygiene Act. Seoul city could have conducted a more broad inspection if dog were considered a livestock under the Livestock Processing Act. But having failed to amend the Livestock Processing Act, Seoul city proceeded under the Food Hygiene Act, which grants the city the authority to conduct a more limited form of hygiene inspection. Instead of overseeing the entire process of raising, slaughtering, processing and cooking of dog and dog meat (as Seoul city could have done under the Livestock Processing Act,) Seoul city was limited to collecting samples of the food served in dog meat restaurants in order to determine whether the dishes contained antibiotics, heavy metal or pathogenic microbes.

This action by Seoul city was perfectly legal, and completely within its power to look after the safety of its citizens. But again, animal rights organizations protested this move again as “legalizing” dog meat. Seoul city followed up with another limited hygiene inspection in July 2008, and animal rights organizations again protested. Since then, Seoul city gave up the effort to conduct hygiene inspections on dog meat restaurants.

It is important to note that the animal rights organizations – specifically, CARE and KARA – and their supporters were the only ones who lodged any objection to Seoul city’s completely reasonable measures. No dog meat aficionado staged a protest in front of the City Hall to protest the cleaner dog meat. No representative from the dog meat industry met with Seoul city official to protest that the new regulations were cumbersome. (In fact, a news report about an unhygienic dog meat restaurant shows the owner being contrite, rather than defiant or angry, after being busted in Seoul city’s inspection sweep.) There literally was no one except animal rights groups that wanted to stop (and did stop) Seoul city’s attempt to regulate the dog meat industry. But for those animal rights groups, meat dogs in Korea may be enjoying a more dignified life, living in clean and spacious environment and slaughtered in a humane manner.

This stunning conclusion bears repeating:  it is because of animal rights groups that Korea does not have a common sense measure that would have protected meat dogs from being brutalized.

How could this be? Animal rights groups reply that regulations are pointless, because the Korean government cannot be trusted to faithfully implement those regulations. However, this feeble justification falls apart when facing the fact that CARE worked actively with National Assemblyman Kim Hyo-Seok to pass a significantly expanded Animal Protection Act last year. If CARE could not trust the government to protect animals, what was the point of working with the government to pass a new law? Conversely, if CARE thought an improved Animal Protection Act would actually protect animals, why would it think an improved Livestock Processing Act would do nothing toward protecting meat dogs?

Here is why. Animal rights groups are ultimately not interested in the welfare of dogs. They certainly care about the welfare of meat dogs, but only as a means to their ultimate end – that is, the validation of their worldview through cultural conquest. For animal rights groups, the fight is ultimately about them, not about the animals. The fight is about establishing the superiority of their worldview, and by extension themselves. As long as their worldview is validated, animal rights groups do not care about the fate of meat dogs.

I know that this conclusion is aggressive. But how else can anyone reconcile the apparent irony that animal rights groups denounced a legislation that would have improved the miserable lot of meat dogs in Korea, while celebrating a law that, if their characterization of the Korean government is to be believed, would do nothing to protect animals? A revised Livestock Processing Act would do much, much more good to dogs in Korea than a revised Animal Protection Act. The coverage of the Animal Protection Act is passive and spotty; it can only stop those cruelties that are discovered and reported to the police. In contrast, the coverage of the Livestock Processing Act is active and broad; it would have put the entire industry under the watch of the government, stopping the cruelties committed to vast majority of meat dogs. Yet, animal rights groups supported the former, and opposed the latter. If animal rights groups truly love animals, their actions make no sense.

Thus, while aggressive, this is the only conclusion that makes sense. What matters to animal rights advocates is validation, not animal welfare. To animal rights advocates, the Animal Protection Act is an official approval of their worldview, that animals should be treated kindly. It does not truly matter whether the Korean government actually enforces the Animal Protection Act – what animal rights advocates are seeking is not animal welfare, but the approval itself. In contrast, Livestock Processing Act is an official disapproval of their worldview, that animals should not be eaten. Thus, animal rights advocates oppose it. Stated differently, the desired end result of the animal rights advocates is not a better life for animals. If that were the case, they should have vigorously supported the law that would have provided the most protection for better animal life. Instead, the desired end result of the animal rights advocates is for every person to think like them. A better life for animals being a by-product of that result, and it is no big loss to animal rights advocates if that by-product does not actually come to pass.

That explains the “validation” part of my conclusion. But why do animal rights group engage in a cultural conquest? They do so because, when it comes to food culture, a more legitimate way of changing people’s mind – that is, persuasion – is not available. When there is no room for persuasion, the only way to change people’s minds is to conquer them.

The Logic of Food

Food is one of the most important things in human life. Food is the means by which humans survive. Food is one of the primary ways in which humans interact with the world. Food contains more culture than any other human construct save language. Most importantly for our purpose here, food is arbitrary. The types of food available around the world are highly varied and random, depending on the accidents of weather and soil that give rise to the edible fauna and flora. Yet, because food has such a central place in human lives, humans form a very strong preference on what is no more than random variation.

If there is any universal logic to be found in food culture, it is that a given food culture only truly makes sense in the particular geographical context in which the food culture arose. Taken outside of that locale, and the food no longer makes sense. The food may still be delicious, but there is no particular reason why you should be eating it.

Mirugai sushi
The geographically limited logic of food is self-evident in any place that has an endemic food culture. In France, it makes sense to drink Beaujolais Nouveau in November, because that is when that appellation is available fresh. In Japan, it makes sense to eat Mirugai sushi in spring, because trough shell clam (mirugai) is the fattest and most flavorful at that time. Take those food out of their local context, however, and the charm of Beaujolais in November or Mirugai in spring is lost. Of course, people living outside of France and Japan may also enjoy Beaujolais in November, or Mirugai in spring, and many do. But unless the Beaujolais or the Mirugai were shipped overnight from France or Japan in order to approximate the “real” thing as closely as possible, there is no particular reason why anyone outside of France or Japan should drink Beaujolais in November, and eat Mirugai in spring.

Dog meat is food. For centuries Koreans have eaten dogs, because doing so makes sense in Korea. Dogs in Korea were somewhat useful for hunting help or as home security, but for the most part, their uses other than as a source of protein were not enough to justify the food to keep them.

Dog meat may not make sense in certain parts of the world outside of Korea. In a land with many large, open pastures that require herding help, dogs may be too valuable to eat, and a taboo might develop over time. But just like the way a certain food does not make sense when taken out of its endemic geographical context, a taboo against a certain food does not make sense when taken out of its geographical context either. The taboo against dog meat imposed to Korea makes as little sense, as dog meat force-fed to a conscientious vegan. (Of course, we all know that only one of the two happens in real life.)

The Illogic of Animal Rights

If we establish that food culture – that is, what to eat and what not to eat – is illogical when taken out of its original, geographical context, it becomes clear that compelling Koreans not to eat dog meat cannot be done through persuasion, but only through an outright conquest. This is so because imposing on Korea the (clearly Western) taboo against dog meat cannot rely on the reasons that used to make sense within the geographical contexts in which those reasons were formed. Import the taboo into a new food culture, and the taboo loses all logic. When there is no room for logic, there can be no persuasion.

This, however, does not mean that dog meat abolitionists have not tried a logical approach. Typically, dog meat abolitionists would howl that culture is not a defense to everything. Then like clockwork, they will offer an example of a cultural artifact like cannibalism or human sacrifice. “If we cannot tolerate sacrifice of virgins in the name of culture,” dog meat abolitionists would argue, “how can we tolerate killing dogs to eat in the name of culture?”

This favorite argument of dog meat abolitionists depends on a critical assumption: dogs, and by extension animals, have the same value as humans. This is the same assumption that serves as the starting point for prominent animal rights theorists. And the argument of the dog meat abolitionists is wrong, because they start from the wrong assumption.

Note here that animal rights theory is not the same thing as animal welfare theory. It is a perfectly normal human impulse to be kind to an animal that provides numerous benefits to people. Again, anyone with a functioning sense of morality would find the current state of meat dogs in Korea deplorable. But caring for animals does not require the belief that animals are equivalent to humans. In fact, as shown above, such belief often works as an impediment against actually improving the lives of animals.

I do not believe I have the time or the space to have a full exposition of the animal rights theories and explain why they are wrong in every single one of their conclusions. For our purpose here, it would suffice to say that those theories begin with the idea that animals have rights, either as much as human rights or some fraction thereof, due to any number of reasons ranging from animals’ ability to feel pain or animals’ sentience. And these theories, if taken to their logical conclusions, will result in scenarios that even the most ardent animal lover would consider strange, if not appalling.

Let’s start with strange. Gary Francione of Rutgers School of Law is the first academic to teach animal rights at an American law school. Francione argues that all sentient beings – which include mammals, fish, birds and perhaps insects – have a right not to be owned as property. This does not simply mean that in Francione’s ideal world, everyone will be vegan. It also means that we will have absolutely no ownership or control over any animal, not even as pets or guide dogs for the blind. Given that most animal rights advocates begin as pet owners (Francione’s Wikipedia page shows a picture of him with his pet dogs,) this is a strange position.

Professor Gary Francione
Now, appalling. Tom Beauchamp, a prominent bioethics professor at Georgetown University, offered a “thesis” that “because many humans lack the properties of personhood or are less than full persons, they are thereby rendered equal or inferior in moral standing to some non-humans. If this conclusion is defensible, we will need to rethink our traditional view that these unlucky humans cannot be treated in the ways we treat relevantly similar non-humans. For example, they might be aggressively used as human research subjects and sources of organs.” (Beauchamp, The Failure of Theories of Personhood, Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, vol. 9, no. 4, Dec. 1999 at 324).

And this time, both appalling and strange. Peter Singer (technically not an animal rights theorist, but monumentally important in that field), infamously claimed that newborn human infants or the cognitively disabled humans are not persons, while “whales, dolphins, monkeys, dogs, cats, pigs, seals, bears, cattle, sheep, and so on” may be persons. (Singer, Practical Ethics, 2d ed. at 132). This is so because Singer redefined a “person” as anything that has “rationality and self consciousness.” (Id. at 87). This definition made Singer disqualify his own mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, from personhood. A profile of Singer that preceded an interview on Reason magazine reads: “Singer's mother suffers from severe Alzheimer's disease, and so she no longer qualifies as a person by his own standards, yet he spends considerable sums on her care. . . . When I asked him about it during our interview at his Manhattan apartment in late July, he sighed and explained that he is not the only person who is involved in making decisions about his mother (he has a sister). He did say that if he were solely responsible, his mother might not be alive today.”

In another notorious instance, Singer wrote approvingly of humans having sex with animals. In a review of a book chronicling the history of bestiality, Singer did not simply review the interesting aspects of the book. Rather, he went into a full-throated defense of bestiality: “We copulate, as they do. They have penises and vaginas, as we do, and the fact that the vagina of a calf can be sexually satisfying to a man shows how similar these organs are." This bizarre stance horrified even the staunchest of Singer’s intellectual peers. Tom Regan, also a major figure in animal rights theories, criticized Singer that by the same logic, one can defend pedophilia as well.

Note that even if someone were to backtrack slightly from these theorists and argue that animal rights are only a fraction of human rights (but large enough of a fraction such that animals do not deserve to be eaten,) the nuttiness of the claim does not change. That is simply moving from the proposition that killing one human is equal to killing one dog, to the proposition that killing one human is equal to killing a hundred dogs. They are equally indefensible, because all of the absurdity outlined above remain just as absurd after the retreat.

To bring the point more specific to our discussion: dogs have no rights, because animals have no rights. To be sure, we humans may look out for dogs’ welfare and treat them with kindness. Again, nobody in Korea, except animal rights organizations, opposed a more humane meat dog raising process. But being kind to dogs does not require giving them any rights, particularly if doing so would lead to giving up all of our pets, harvesting organs of a cognitively disabled person, euthanizing your own mother or having sex with animals.

The Many Lies of Cultural Conquistadors

If there is no room for logic in the course of attempting to change Koreans’ minds about dog meat eating, dog meat abolitionists must necessarily rely on bald assertions of cultural superiority. But such assertions do not sell. Therefore, dog meat abolitionists rely on the age-old tactic by invading imperialists – couching their claims of superiority in the lies and half-truths designed to depict natives as uncivilized savages.

Which, finally, brings us to the Busan Haps article penned by Ms. Frankie Herrington. All the symptoms of a typical dog meat abolitionist are well-represented in this article. Refusal to consider amending the Livestock Processing Act? (“Animal welfare groups are against regulation as well, as it is unlikely to improve conditions for dogs, only improve the conditions for people. Recall the government's culling of 1.4 million pigs by burying them alive in March 2011 for fear of disease transmission?”) Check. Equating killing a person with killing a dog? (“ It was once tradition to sacrifice young female slaves to the Slavic god of war.”) Check. Bald statement of cultural superiority? (“Should we not also show compassion to an animal that has long been regarded as ‘man’s best friend?’” – gee, which part of the world has long regarded dogs as “man’s best friend”?) Check, check, check please.

But the most striking part of Ms. Herrington’s article is the exquisite collection of lies, distortion and half-truths about dog meat consumption in Korea. Ms. Herrington could have built a very strong case against dog meat simply by limiting herself to recounting the deplorable living conditions of dogs raised for meat, and arguing that eating dog meat encourages these conditions. Instead, however, Ms. Herrington chose to throw in every single lie, distortion and half-truth that has been thrown in the history of dog meat debate so far, in order to denigrate people who eat dog meat. I will address those falsehoods by category.

First, the “health benefit and virility” point. Discussing the reasons why Korean people eat dogs, Ms. Herrington led off with the claim that Koreans have traditionally eaten dogs because of supposed health benefits – that is, enhancing virility in men. Ms. Herrington then cited classic Korean medicine books from the 16th and 17th century.

File this under “half-truth,” because Ms. Herrington did not bother to talk about what the rest of the books say. Following the Eastern medicine tradition, Koreans traditionally regarded every single food to be medicinal, affecting their health in some form or another. In other words, every single food ingredient traditionally available in Korea comes with some kind of health benefit. According to Dongeuibogam ["The Jeweled Tome of Eastern Medicine"], one of the books that Ms. Herrington cites, garlic is supposed to warm the stomach and cure bug bites. The book also says that eels are good for curing venereal disease.

Koreans eat dog meat for the same reason anyone eats anything – dog meat tastes good, and it provides sustenance. There are tons of other traditional food ingredients that are extolled for their health benefits, but rarely eaten in modern Korea. For example, many Korean folk stories extol the virtues of carp, a winter fish that magically cures an ailing patient in the cold. But one is hard-pressed to find any restaurant in Korea that sells carp, because carp tastes terrible. Regardless, Ms. Herrington would have you believe that Koreans who eat dog meat do so to enhance their virility. By that logic, she may as well also argue that Koreans put garlic in kimchi to cure bug bites, or everyone who visits an eel restaurant in Korea suffers from the not-so-fresh feeling down there.

Second, the “illegal meat” point. Ms. Herrington wrote: “the law does not recognize dogs as a legitimate food[.]” This is a straight lie. Korean law recognizes dogs as a legitimate food. Dog meat restaurants receive governmental permits to open their business and stay open, just like any other restaurant. Dog meat restaurant pays taxes, just like any other restaurant. (In fact, the National Tax Board of Korea issued a specific opinion that, for a restaurant’s tax purposes, the expense of purchasing dog meat is treated exactly the same as the expense of purchasing any other meat or food ingredient.) Korean courts have ruled that slaughtering a dog for the purpose of eating does not violate the Animal Protection Act. (It is, however, against the Animal Protection Act to kill a dog in a cruel manner in public, even for the purpose of eating.) As discussed above, local governments may conduct limited hygiene inspection on dog meat restaurants pursuant to Food Hygiene Act, which defines “food” as “all foodstuff, except taken as medicine.

Dog meat abolitionists argue that dog meat is illegal because dog meat is not regulated by the Livestock Processing Act. But that hardly means that dog meat is illegal or illegitimate; that just means that Livestock Processing Act does not regulate the processing of dog meat. For example, Livestock Processing Act does not regulate the processing of ostrich meat, as ostrich was not included in the definition of “livestock.” (Which makes sense, because virtually no Korean raises or eats ostrich.) That does not mean that no one in Korea can legally eat ostrich meat. Basic principles of liberal democracy dictates that what is not prohibited by law is allowed. Therefore, no law stops anyone in Korea from having an ostrich burger. Further, it is rather funny to hear dog meat abolitionists argue that eating dog meat is illegal, when they themselves are responsible for ensuring that dog meat was not covered by the Livestock Processing Act.

Third, the “cruel slaughter” point, which works in conjunction with “health benefits” point. Ms. Herrington quotes Park So-Yeon, director of CARE: “Death is deliberately slow due to the belief that torture improves the taste and “health” benefits of the meat. The typical method of slaughter is electrocution, which takes from 30 seconds to 3 minutes until the dog dies, beatings before and during slaughter, being burned with a blow-torch, boiled alive and bled out. The ‘old-fashion’ [sic] way involves hanging taking up to seven minutes.”

This is a distortion that is easily exposed by basic logic. We already established that Koreans do not primarily eat dog meat for health benefits. What makes the living conditions of meat dogs brutal is unchecked economics, not some sadistic desire for dubious health benefits. Because dog farms are unregulated by the Livestock Processing Act, they are free to treat the dogs in the most convenient and cost-efficient manner possible, without regard to the dogs’ welfare. Hence, the dogs live in tiny cages and in unclean conditions.

But such economics-driven behavior would counsel against slow torture of the dogs. Why would a profit-driven dog farmer or a dog meat merchant spend the time and energy to hang and beat a dog, when electrocution effortlessly brings about a swift death? While there is no official survey on this topic, a quick visit to any dog meat market – something that I am sure Ms. Herrington has never done – usually confirms this point. The fact that there is no dog meat restaurant that specifically touts its specialty of slowly tortured dog meat – which, if the director of CARE is to be believed, would provide a competitive advantage to dog meat restaurants – further confirms that vast majority of meat dogs meet a quick death.

Are there any dogs in Korea today that meet a brutal, beating death by people who covet its meat for sexual enhancement? Because the superstition is still alive in some small corners of Korea, I am certain that there is greater than zero number of dogs that meet such unfortunate death. But are such cases the norm, or even a significant minority? Economic logic and firsthand observations say no. Dog meat merchants may not give a whiff about meat dogs’ welfare, but they are not deliberate sadists who would go out of their way to cause pain.

More importantly, it is not as if dog meat abolitionists care. Just as the revised Livestock Processing Act could have prevented cruel treatment of meat dogs in their lives, the law could have also ensured that the means of slaughtering meat dogs are quick, painless and humane. But dog meat abolitionists actively opposed revising the Livestock Processing Act.

Finally, Ms. Herrington’s lack of even the most basic intellectual rigor. I do not wish to make this overly personal, so I will simply note a few things and move on. Ms. Herrington does not cite a single statistic that comes outside of animal rights groups; she relies on a newspaper that regularly reports about UFO discovery taken from an American tabloid; she states that dog meat restaurants are not taxed, although the National Tax Board opinion cited above clearly shows otherwise; she takes a quote from a dog meat restaurant owner and twists it completely out of context, to make a claim that “[t]he industry is of course against regulation” (please read the full article and see if such inference can be supported); and, most hilariously, she cites a study purportedly conducted by Dr. Irwin Putzkoff, “Schmuckintush professor of nutritional physiology,” whose Google search result looks like this. As one of the most visible advocates of dog meat eating in the English-language Internet – Google “why Koreans eat dog” and see for yourself – I can personally attest that Ms. Herrington’s reliance on partisan data and dubious sources is quite typical of dog meat abolitionists.

The Imperialism and Cultural Conquest in Dog Meat Abolition Movement

What do all these lies by dog meat abolitionists accomplish? Cumulatively, they paint a picture of the evil dog eater that any civilized person would find repulsive: a lawless savage who engages in a sadistic ritual and eats dirty meat, just to get his dick up. The message that Ms. Herrington and other dog meat abolitionists wish to deliver is clear: Koreans who eat dogs are uncivilized and culturally inferior.

16th century depiction of cannibalistic savages.
Lawlessness. Sadistic rituals. Dirty meat. Hyper-sexuality. It is not a coincidence that these are the standard image for any native person encountered by invading imperialists of the 19th and 20th century. Imperialism of the 19th and 20th century is fundamentally different from the series of wars and conquests that preceded it in human history, in that imperialism was much more than a simple struggle for more land and wealth. What motivated imperialism was a genuine belief of cultural superiority. The more developed countries, imperialists argued, were so because they possessed superior cultures. Therefore, the more developed countries had a moral obligation to educate and enlighten the benighted savages, who needed to be cured of their animal impulse that led to their barbaric behaviors. A triumph of imperialism required much more than the control over territory and wealth; it required a thorough cultural conquest.

Dog meat abolitionists operate on exactly the same premise. Dog meat abolitionists genuinely believe that their arbitrary culture – of not eating dogs – is superior to the alternative. They also believe that they have a moral obligation to cure the benighted people who still eat dogs. A triumph for dog meat abolitionists also require a thorough cultural conquest over the practice of eating dogs. Therefore, it is hardly a surprise to see that dog meat abolitionists employ the same kinds of lies, distortions and half-truths as imperialists did, to paint the same, repulsive picture of a person whom they are supposed to enlighten.

Dog meat abolitionists – particularly non-Korean ones – are fully aware of the imperialistic undertone of their end goal and the strategy they employ to achieve it. Thus, to dispel the stench of cultural conquest, they usually point out that a portion of Koreans are also opposed to dog meat eating. (Ms. Herrington begins her piece by redundantly claiming that “[i]ncreasingly, more and more Koreans” are opposed to dog meat.) But the fact that some Koreans are also dog meat abolitionists does not diminish the cultural imperialism innate in the dog meat abolition movement. Rather, the fact that some Koreans are also dog meat abolitionists confirms the imperialism in the movement, for no imperialism in the history of humankind occurred without the cooperation by some portion of the native population. In the history of imperialism, no conquered population stood in complete unity to resist the invading horde. At least a few in the native population stood to gain from the new world order to be imposed by the imperialists, and those few, without fail, had provided to the imperialists active assistance, without which conquest was all but impossible.

This dynamic is quite evident in the imperialistic conquest regarding dog meat as well. The prize for the local population who opposes dog meat consumption is the same as the prize for non-Korean dog meat abolitionists – the claim of cultural superiority. It must be noted that animal rights movement in Korea came to being around the beginning of 2000s, as pet ownership in Korea reached critical mass. (Both CARE and KARA were established in 2002.) Pet ownership in Korea (that is, the kind that resembles Western pet ownership) is still very much a status marker for middle-to-upper middle-class Koreans. A vast majority of Koreans live in smallish high-rise apartments, such that in general, only a wealthy family who can afford a house with a lawn in the middle of the city, or an upper-middle class who can afford a large apartment, can afford to own pets. (And even in those cases, the pets are usually limited to handbag-sized lap dogs.)

This rise in pet ownership in Korea coincides with the changes in Korea’s food culture. Korea rose from the rubbles of the Korean War and the desperate poverty of the 1960s. As Korea became wealthier, the rising Korean middle class sought new and different kinds of food that would mark their superior class status to those around them. In the late 1980s, those foods were hamburgers from McDonald’s and pizza from Pizza Hut. In the 1990s, rare-cooked steaks served in American-style family restaurants like T.G.I. Friday’s and Bennigan’s. In the 2000s, pastas and wine.

(Just in case people are incredulous as to just how big of a status marker McDonald’s was: I grew up in an affluent neighborhood in Seoul that saw the first McDonald’s in Korea, opened in 1988. That McDonald’s had a special birthday party area in the back, which only the richest families of the neighborhood could afford to rent. The lucky birthday boy who had a party there got to have the amazing opportunity to tour all the McDonald’s facilities, meat lockers and all. The highlight of the experience was cooking your own cheeseburger. For a young Korean child in late 1980s, being able to flip burgers at McDonald’s was a privilege reserved for the 1 percent.)

But when it comes to food culture, rising tide does raise all boats. Eventually, the food that was only available to the wealthy became more generally available to everyone in Korea. In the 2010s, the emerging new status marker in Korean food culture is vegetarianism. Because status-seekers are running out of new food to eat, they have now turned to not eating certain food as status markers. In this backdrop, it is not a surprise that the anti-dog meat movement in Korea is gaining speed. Previously, food as a status marker only signaled more worldly sophistication. But by introducing morality into food, the psychic benefit of opposing dog meat doubles. By not eating dog meat, or any meat for that matter, you can signal to other Koreans that you are not only aesthetically superior, but morally superior as well.

Therefore, these wealthy, pet-owning, status-seeking Koreans are quite happy to join the non-Korean cultural imperialists. After all, those two share the same goal – proving the world of their cultural superiority. Together, they blithely proceed with their cultural conquest, by fraudulently painting the opposition as savages, all the while actively getting in the way of actually improving the lives of meat dogs in Korea.

Why Koreans Continue to Support Dog Meat

But the problem for these cultural imperialists is that their falsehoods, and the insults implied therein, are quite clear to most Koreans. Painting dog-eating Koreans as savages might work for people outside of Korea who only pay a glancing attention to this issue. Most Koreans, however, including even those who do not eat dog meat, rightly recognize such characterizations as slanderous.

In July 2008, during the height of animal rights organizations’ protest against Seoul city’s hygiene inspections of dog meat, a professional polling company conducted a survey about whether Koreans agreed with “legalizing dog meat.” This represents the most recent survey on this topic conducted by an unbiased professional organization, unlike the many distorted surveys put out by Korea’s animal rights groups. And in that survey, a solid majority -- 53.2 percent -- said “yes” to “legalizing dog meat.” 25.3 percent said “no,” and 21.6 percent replied “I don’t know.”

53.2 percent might not sound like a commanding lead, but it is actually quite impressive in a number of ways. First of all, the question of the poll was misleadingly skewed toward an unfavorable result for dog meat. As discussed above, dog meat in Korea is perfectly legal; therefore, there is nothing to “legalize.” If the survey was phrased in a more accurate manner – say, “do you agree with treating meat dogs as livestock?” – it is highly likely that a substantial portion of the 21.6 percent who replied “I don’t know” would turn toward “yes.”

Second of all, the highest proportion of “yes” came from Koreans in their 20s at 62.9 percent. This is an interesting result, given that Koreans in their 20s are the least likely among all ages to have tried dog meat. In a survey conducted in 2006, only 46.1 percent of Koreans in their 20s ever tried dog meat. In other words, even as younger Koreans eat less dog meat, they have a stronger sense that people should have a right to be let alone in their food choices.

Finally, the result is astoundingly impressive given the historical willingness for Koreans to adopt other arbitrary elements of Western culture and ditch their own at the drop of a hat. There was no particular reason why Koreans had to stop wearing their traditional clothes in favor of Western-style clothing, but now the hanbok is relegated to being a holiday gear. The Korean language is quite sufficient to express everything, but Koreans liberally mix in English words in storefronts, literature and everyday conversation. Most Koreans are born with no epicanthic fold on their eyelids, but numerous Koreans receive plastic surgery on their eyelids in order to approximate the Western round eyes. And all of this happened without anyone – except perhaps indirectly – telling Koreans what to do. In contrast, dog meat in Korea has been under assault for more than 20 years, with the attack’s intensity increasing each year. Yet, dog meat in Korea endures, and if the opinion of young Koreans in their 20s is any indication, dog meat in Korea is here to stay.

Why do majority of Koreans continue to support dog meat? They do because they recognize that the dog meat-eating Koreans are nothing like the barbaric savages portrayed by animal rights groups. Here is a picture of a dog meat eater: me. Some of my happiest childhood memories involve dog meat. My grandfather was a fan of the dish. On some holidays, the whole family would get together and head out for the outskirts of my father’s hometown. We would gather at a restaurant that would be attached to a dog farm. Even as a child, I recognized that the dogs in the farm, woofing while locked up in tiny cages, were not a pleasant sight. But getting together with family to share a warm, hearty meal – that would be considered happiness in any culture, not savagery.

As an adult, I am nothing like the typical caricature of a dog meat eater painted by dog meat abolitionists. I am young and I traveled the world extensively. (In fact, now I live in America, a decidedly dog-meat-averse country.) If I may dare say it, I am highly educated and have a sophisticated understanding of the world. I like animals. I currently have a pet cat, and I often pet-sit my friends’ dogs. I eat meat, but sparingly so, as I still keep to a Korean diet for the most part. I care about the deplorable conditions of factory-farmed animals enough to buy free-range meat whenever I can for my own cooking. But like many people, I am not a stickler about where my meat came from when I eat at a restaurant.

I continue to eat dog meat (when I am in Korea, that is,) not only because of the good memories, but also the merits of the food itself. It is strange that the talk about the taste of dog meat is totally absent in the debate about dog meat consumption, a matter of taste. To put it simply: it’s delicious. Properly prepared, it is one of the best meats I have ever tasted. The meat is slightly gamy, leaner than beef, more textured than pork, and more supple than mutton. I do not wish to force-feed anyone, but I do recommend trying it at least once if you are visiting Korea. After all, isn’t broadening one’s horizons the whole point travelling?

Just as much as I care about the terrible conditions of the animals in American factory farms, I care about the revolting conditions of the dogs in the dog farms of Korea. If I can’t have free-range dog meat, at least I want those dogs to be treated as humanely as other livestock in Korea. In this preference, I am hardly alone among Korean dog meat eaters. Despite what animal rights organizations might have you believe, dog meat eaters of Korea are not some kind of sadist monsters. They are regular people who choose to eat a particular food for all the regular reasons – habit, memories, flavor, etc. It is telling that, in 2008, not a single dog meat eater protested Seoul city’s decision to recommend the amendment of Livestock Processing Act. If we remember who blocked Seoul city from even attempting to amend the law that would surely have improved the lives of thousands of dogs in Korea, we have to wonder who the real sadistic monsters were in that shameful chapter of the history of Korea and dog meat.

Got a question or comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. What I don't understand is this: if the goal truly is to improve the lives of dogs, why not support regulation of the industry as a positive first step towards the ultimate goal of ending consumption of all animals?

    People may start to disagree after this stage, but accomplishing that first big step would be a win-win situation for everyone.

    1. Animal rights activists (not animal welfare) are usually not in it for raising and killing animals you are going to eat humanely. To them, killing is killing, regardless of whether it is painful or not, and the term "humane slaughter" is an oxymoron to them. Since they want to get rid of animal consumption, many use dogs as an "ambassador" to broader animal issues (as what Animals Asia says), and they hope that their special spotlight in animal issues will broaden the limelight to other animals, leading to a more vegan future.

      It is similar to pro-life advocates in Canada, where I live. Fetal pain during abortion is a major issue, and while society does not value fetal life, many do take into concern the way the fetus is killed. Since there is not a chance that fetuses feel pain until around 20 weeks, the government introduced a bill to ban late term abortion. However, the bill failed, and pro-life advocates were also responsible for striking it down. I know very staunch pro-life advocates who are against the bill too, on account that "a life is a life". Allowing only painless abortions would make people more comfortable with killing unborn babies, so even if it made the situation better, in the long run, it would only make people less critical about killing unborn babies. This is why pro-life advocates protested, because in the end to them, it is murder of a human life, regardless of whether they felt pain or not.

      In a similar fashion, since making dog meat humane would make at least 70% the controversy surrounding the practise die down, it would also make less people upset over the issue of our use of animals (which animal rights activists hope would make dog lovers expand their compassion to other animals that we eat). Furthermore, by allowing dog meat to continue, they lose an ambassador to animal rights. Currently, most people in developed countries do not value the lives of animals (except for dogs and cats), but many countries have a high deal of regard for the welfare of their meat animals. Animal rights activists want people to add value to the lives of all animals, and they feel that their attitudes towards other animals are on par with society's attitudes to dogs and cats, they want to make society extend that attitude to all other sentient animals here. Should dogs be seen as just another livestock, they would lose the effective "You wouldn't eat a dog, so why eat a pig" slogan.

  2. I personaly never ate a dog, but what's all this exageration about eating dogs? Are they sacred? I understand dogs might be cute and loyal, but to me, people who are oh, so shocked about the fact someone is eating a dog remind me just of the people who don't eat cow beause they worship it. And, indeed, soetimes the animal lovers seem to worship dogs. Which is ridiculous to me.
    I dont hate animals and I agree they should have less cruel standards to keep the animals at the farms, but it is amazing how people exagerate when it comes to animal rights.

    And it is even amazing how they exagerate when it comes to Koreans eating dogs. I talked once to somebody who even got this as an excuse for his racism. I mean, are you going so far to hate your own human kind (without even having enough knowledge about your arguments) because you worship the dogs so much? And also, I live in Korea and eating dogs is not strange here, but it's not even something they eat like Italians and Croatian students eat pasta. It is mostly elderly people eat dogs anyway, the young ones are not much into it. Looks like a dying habit to me.

    And btw., to me it is much more shocking to eat living octopus rather than eating a dog. Because it's living, moving.

  3. Thank you for this topic.
    I can't eat dog because of my religion rules. It allows people to eat octopus but I think I can't do that. It is alive and moving.

  4. it seems like the deplorable conditions of dog farms in Korea seem just like the deplorable conditions of puppy mills in the US. Yet in the US, "pet-lovers" still pay top dollar for these puppies in pet stores, supporting this industry, b/c they want a specific breed, or think rescued older dogs have "issues."
    It's like all those liberals that are pro-electric cars and think people that drive SUV's are the devil. Do they realize how big the batteries are in those electric cars? The batteries aren't recyclable (yet) and just sit in a landfill. It is worse than oil.
    I just find that people that are so extreme on certain topics, just make things worse and never take the time to understand the entire story or process.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Kudos, a great read.

    I feel like the current status of inaction by Korean government is a deliberate choice on the government's part, rather than due to a less than complete understanding of the issues or an indifference. Animal rights groups are vocal, are likely to have members that are more affluent than average Korean and oftentimes receive support from like-minded individuals and groups from the Western world. In contrast, while many Koreans may view it as a matter of cultural heritage, the broad Korean public appears less inclined to mobilize and exert political pressure on government to improve dogs' conditions or to regulate the industry and largely indifferent as less and less people enjoy the food regularly. I may be mistaken as it has been a while I left the country, but my sense is that the dog meat consumption is diminishing, particularly in the younger Koreans. Presented with this situation, the Korean government is probably taking the safer path and do nothing, lest any change in the status quo should invite accusations of the Korean government condoning "cruel treatment of man's best friend" from internatioanlly prominent individuals or groups and damage any nice image of Korea in the international community, and hoping that the dog meat consumption base would continue to dwindle.

    Unless the public opoinion on this solidifies into something that can exert political influence on the Korean government (which may occur over time, thanks in part to an opinion piece like this), I feel that the Korean govenrment will sit tight and the scene will stay the same.

  6. I completely agree -- regulate it just as much as other livestock. My opinion is that all animals raised for food should be getting treated a lot better than they are -- and in general, people should be aware that eating a primarily diet based on meat is not sustainable in the long run (and bad for you, unless you're Inuit). As omnivores, it's only natural that we eat meat, though, and I disagree with certain animal rights activists who want to force us all on a vegan diet.

    I also am getting increasingly convinced that people who are very black-and-white about this issue are rather ignorant about the animals themselves. Livestock animals and companion animals were originally domesticated by us so that we could survive. Without them, we would not be as successful as a species as we are today. I don't think their existence is "unnatural" for that reason (whatever "natural" is, anyway) and I think they are very much necessary. It pisses me off when anti-dog meat activists value the lives of dogs over the lives of pigs, cattle, or chickens, because of their own emotional attachment to dogs alone. How disrespectful to the animals that give up their lives so that we could live.

    1. "I completely agree -- regulate it just as much as other livestock. My opinion is that all animals raised for food should be getting treated a lot better than they are"

      I agree too. As well, the healthier the animal is, the healthier food it becomes.

  7. A good read, even though as a long-time expat in Korea I must confess to being very, very tired of this issue. Thanks for writing it. Frankie Harrington's article was unfortunately typical of what appears on that side of the argument - just begging to be dissected/demolished/other appropriate d-word.

    I do have one quibble for your potential consideration. Harrington asserts that a perceived health benefit is one of the principal reasons that Koreans consume dog. Although she then goes on to cite "interesting" sources and otherwise embellish that assertion in a pretty laughable way, I'd opine that the base assertion is valid. This opinion is informed by observations of/conversations with numerous Koreans (in some cases while eating one dog dish or another with them :)). So saying that "Koreans eat dog meat for the same reason anyone eats anything – dog meat tastes good, and it provides sustenance" and saying that health benefit is a factor to a similar or identical extent in Koreans' consumption of dog and their consumption of garlic seems a bit disingenuous. If for example the survey question "Why do you eat dog dishes?" was posed to a Korean (a Korean that did indeed eat dog of course) my impression of the top three answers in order would be 1) 40% tradition (i.e. "I eat it on certain days during the summer or certain occasions when my family has always gone out to a dog restaurant" etc., 2) 40% because it benefits my health, and 3) 20% because it tastes good (probably the 20% is generous). (Whereas the survey question "Why do you eat foods with garlic as an ingredient?" would receive answers something like 1) 98% because it tastes freaking fantastic, 2) 1% because in Korean cuisine it's more or less impossible to avoid, and 3) maybe 1% because it benefits my health. :))

    Again just an informed impression, no sources to cite etc. Wondered what you and other readers thought of it. More or less on? Way off?

    1. First of all, great handle!

      As to this point: "If for example the survey question "Why do you eat dog dishes?" was posed to a Korean (a Korean that did indeed eat dog of course) my impression of the top three answers in order would be 1) 40% tradition (i.e. "I eat it on certain days during the summer or certain occasions when my family has always gone out to a dog restaurant" etc., 2) 40% because it benefits my health, and 3) 20% because it tastes good (probably the 20% is generous)."

      It's a fair point. Because dog meat is in fact more associated with health than garlic, I would say Korean respondents are more likely to give a health-related answer. You would probably agree that other boyangshik [보양식] such as samgyetang [삼계탕] would elicit similar type of responses.

      But I would point out that the issue goes deeper than those (likely) answers by Koreans who eat dog meat. The implication that dog meat abolitionists are making (which is the thing I sought to address) is that Koreans who eat dog meat do so because of unnatural reasons, i.e. getting their dicks up, rather than ordinary reasons like taste. That's why I gave the counterexample of carp -- again, extolled for their incredible health benefits, but no one in Korea eats it because it really tastes terrible. Stated differently, my point is that regardless of the expressed reasons, Koreans would not be eating dog meat if it did not taste good.

    2. Whether Koreans really do eat dogs primarily because of its supposed health benefits is completely besides the point and irrelevant in this discussion unless you mean to suggest that the foods eaten primarily for health benefits somehow merits less protection than the foods eaten for their taste. If I'm eating a hamburger, does it matter if I'm eating it because it tastes good or if I'm eating it because it give me the biggest bang for the buck so to speak (more calorie per dollar). Can you say one is more deplorable than the other? (You may have a personal opinion about which one is a more sensible than the other, but that shouldn't be a basis for regulating or banning the practice.)

      And more importantly, I do strongly believe that the vast majority of the people who eat dogs do it because they taste good. I used to go to boshintang restaurants quite frequently and I know the crowd, and believe you me. They're NOT gulping down unsavory foodstuff while pinching their noses because they desperately want those elusive health benefits that they can't ever find in other foods. They are enjoying the flavor in every morsel of the dish, oh yes. They may tell you that they like eating dogs because it gives them sexual virility, but they don't really believe it any more than the American people believe that the oysters that they eating are real aphrodisiacs. They should know because they'll experience it firsthand that evening if it actually "works." (And if they do believe that it gives them that extra "oomph," then hey, more power to them.)

      So in conclusion, the "Koreans eat dogs because they believe they give them sexual virility" argument is exactly what TK argues it is. It is a half-truth laced with a concealed message that these dog-eaters are somehow less sophisticated and--dare I say it?--"savage"-like.

  8. As someone who isn't particularly concerned about the subject -- mostly because I am so sick of the BS on both sides -- this was refreshingly intelligent.

    As for the question ddaengjoong poses: it reads me to like a question that is inherently biased and is by someone who has never consumed dog meat. If I were to guess the answers to the question, I would guess that they are the same to every other "why do you eat this?" question. Why do I eat beef? Because it tastes good. Why do I eat bacon? Because it tastes good. Why do I eat lamb? Because it tastes good. So why do Koreans eat dog? I would imagine that it tastes good.

  9. I wholeheartedly agree with the author's basic premise of cultural imperialism regarding the issue of eating dogs. However, I think it was unwise of him to accuse the animal rights people of being "not interested in the welfare of dogs" and suggest that "their ultimate end" is "the validation of their worldview." This might be true with some people or some organizations, but you can't attack the entire animal rights movement with such broad brush strokes. Much good has come about because of the animal rights movement not just for the animal kinds, but for the human kind as well. (I'd argue, for instance, criminalizing human behaviors that unduly harm animals by treating them cruelly, was one of its important accomplishments and that it benefits humans as much as the animals because people that are insensitive and violent towards animals tend to be the same way towards their fellow humans as well.) TK could have simply said that these people, with regards to the issue of meat dogs, may have been misguided or even have questionable motives, but trying to invalidate the entire efforts of the movement and criticizing its most basic tenets probably should have been left out of the scope of this article. I think this (including the section on the "strange, appalling" animal rights activists as it is nothing more than an exercise in constructing and dismantling a straw man) hurts more than helps the overall strengths of TK's otherwise excellent article.

    1. "I wholeheartedly agree with the author's basic premise of cultural imperialism regarding the issue of eating dogs. However, I think it was unwise of him to accuse the animal rights people of being "not interested in the welfare of dogs" and suggest that "their ultimate end" is "the validation of their worldview." This might be true with some people or some organizations, but you can't attack the entire animal rights movement with such broad brush strokes."

      I agree. Although I'm neither part of the political animal rights group, or an academic, my M.O. is that animals have certain basic rights and that a number of factors, such as intelligence of the species or the ability to perceive pain, are factored in when comparing the relative rights of different groups of animals. I disagree with TK that every theory of animal rights leads to absurd or illogical results. On the other hand, I disagree with the quoted academics, with the idea that animal rights are factional and can be summed to be equal to a human's (or greater), and pretty much every other example that TK states to show why the concept of animal rights are absurd. I also support the right of Koreans to continue their traditional consumption of gaegogi suyuk and related foods, the right of native american groups in the US to continue hunting whale using their traditional methods, etc.

      "(including the section on the "strange, appalling" animal rights activists as it is nothing more than an exercise in constructing and dismantling a straw man)"

      TK did say that he was simply pulling the worst examples, rather than working on a comprehensive and exhaustive response. I'm guessing that he was trying to show that animal rights supporters (or at least, not all of them) hold the moral high ground. If so, he convinced me.

  10. As a white dude, if I were to go to Korea, what would be the least awkward way for me to eat dog meat? Are people going to assume that I want to go to a dog meat restaurant to gawk? Or to scoff at how backwards Koreans are?

    I don't have any plans to go right now, so recommendations of specific restaurants are not so helpful. I'm just wondering what the most appropriate way to broach the subject would be.

    1. sorry: I attached my reply to the wrong comment at first. Here's how.

      find an older gentleman -- around his middle-ages -- who's a dog-meat-eater. Explain that you want to try it. Your attitude as you explain it, and as you eat it, will reveal to everyone whether you're a gawker, a scoffer, or a curious foodie.

      Be aware that some dog restaurants and dog markets are sensitive to their industry's image problem, and might ask you not to take pictures of certain things, and respect their wishes. To be most discreet, you should check before any picture you take.

  11. Here's an article that looks at the inadequacies of animal welfare from a different perspective (not related to dogs or dog meat or consumption of animals): http://english.donga.com/srv/service.php3?biid=2012030250138

  12. Are you people crazy? Is it me who only has a heart and a healthy brain that distinguishes things clearly?? What the heck of hanging & beating to death? I nearly get a heart attack even when I imagine, let alone eating a dog.This can only belong to a barbarian and a selfish culture.If you call this shit a culture, hang me and beat me to death.This is pure cannibalism because dogs are the closest animals to people!Consuming a dog is equal to eating a human! They are kept in tiny cages where they cannot even move.They are not fed, not given water since they are seen as a potential source of protein. Protein?! Jesus fuck! Go get your damn protein from other animals but not from dogs!

    1. Which is what people who consider cows sacred think of you. What a terrible culture, that which allows for consumption of cows (not even on base of necessity-as it was in the 50's in Korea when people literally had no food)!
      Why would you say that they are closest to humans? Because humans have spent centuries modifying and preening them to our taste? Because of your personal bond with pets?
      Of course, the conditions of the dogs are deplorable. Which is exactly what the writer wishes would change but won't because of animal rights activists.
      What you distinguish clearly is how your culture and media has taught you to think: eating dogs is bad, only done by cruel people. You would think the same of any other animal had it also been defended this way, regardless of the actual animal.
      No need to insult people based on their different culture :)
      I'm not Korean btw, I am a "westerner".

  13. The validation of their worldview through cultural conquest

    no. Korea is a country that is evolving - same as every other country on earth. The west is having the same debate although their discussions concern the consumption of other animals like cows, pigs etc. The argument against eating dogs is a part of the larger dialogue concerning animal rights and the consumption of animals’ period.

    For animal rights groups, the fight is about establishing the superiority of their worldview, and by extension themselves. As long as their worldview is validated

    So what? if the adoption of their worldviews will lead to a better environment for humans and animals, their views SHOULD ultimately get validated…as ive said before humanity is evolving away from consuming meat because it is unsustainable…(lack of grain to feed humans as well as animals for consumption, bio hazard like SARS from factory farmed chickens etc etc)

    Scientists are investing millions into meat produced in laboratories….why the fuck would they be wasting money like this if there was no “valid” rational reason against factory farming? And you’re taking a step back from progress by supporting the factory farming of dogs!….wtf?

    But how else can anyone reconcile the apparent irony that animal rights groups denounced a legislation that would have improved the miserable lot of meat dogs in Korea, while celebrating a law that, if their characterization of the Korean government is to be believed, would do nothing to protect animals?

    Accepting the legislation would not only result in them compromising their aim (which is to free dogs from being eaten) and will only result in crappy factory farming condition for the dogs anyway…so of course they would oppose it…funny how you accuse other people of lacking “intellectual rigour”

    “If animal rights groups truly love animals, their actions make no sense.”
    Truly loving animals is to think of their long term well being instead of being sidetracked by politics. this legislation will result in dogs being factory farmed!! don’t you get it? they don’t want people eating dogs period. why the fuk would they accept legislation that will only lead to the factory farming of dogs?

    “First, the “health benefit and virility” point. Koreans eat dog meat for the same reason anyone eats anything – dog meat tastes good, and it provides sustenance.”

    That’s a weak argument and its not even true. Im Korean and ive smelt Dog meat being cooked (before preparation). it smells BAD. they put in a lot of extra stuff with Dog meat to disguise that smell…ultimately it’s the seasonings you think “tastes good”. Without the seasonings it’s as gross as it smells.

    Eating animals that were originally made to eat offal and road kill i.e. scavengers (like dogs/wolves/hyenas) CANNOT be good…defies logic to think otherwise.

    This is sort of like when ppl eat Sharks Fin soup (which is also over-rated)…this dish is also taboo (cause of way the sharks are killed)….sharks fin is tasteless (just tastes like nothing) but people still eat it because of the “prestige” of eating something that’s “expensive” and “from a shark”…

    At the end of the day, people are fuking idiots…its all ego and a stubborn inferiority complex…deep down they know it’s wrong and that the taste isn’t great enough to even justify eating it whatsoever.

    The message that Ms. Herrington wish to deliver is clear: Koreans who eat dogs are uncivilized and culturally inferior

    No that’s just a false interpretation from your own paranoid inferiority complex.

    Therefore, these wealthy, pet-owning, status-seeking Koreans are quite happy to join the non-Korean cultural imperialists
    WTF? lol…I guess you think this guy is also trying to be “culturally superior” too - google: “venerable beopjeong Buddhist priests argument against dog meat consumption”

  14. Tl;dr (sorry it's very interesting but I don't have time!) What I did read though, I agree with. I think a lot of the taboo surrounding dog meat is the media (especially social media)'s portration of dogs being boiled alive, mis-treated and the affection for their own pets. This has scientific base: our brain is wired to consider certain things cute which is why we generally don't kill or punch babies when we're frustrated with them, also why we nurture and play with them, etc.
    So basically dog meat is taboo because of these bonds people form (you don't see many bonding with a cow except perhaps kids on a farm-who probably understand that the cow eventually will be killed, if only because of old age-or they suffer over that cow, but it doesn't [USUALLY] affect their over-all view of meat-eating). People look at a dog and go "awww" almost as if it were a baby (and who wants to eat a baby). I was guilty of this too, looking at the first picture. I actually thought 'who could kill these poor dogs?' However, I would not mind at all trying dog meat. I actually kind of want to.
    Really, there isn't much difference between a dog and any other mammal (apart from humans, which is a different issue) being killed for food. As long as it's raised humanely, and not someone's beloved pet, it's fine with me.
    It's ignorant to put dogs over other animals (unless it's your religion such as it with the cow). What makes them so special? If you had a horse as a pet, would you want to eat it? If dogs were endangered, then yes, they should be treated specially. But they're not.
    Also, I really don't understand moral vegetarians (as in animal rights vegans). Other animals are not equal to humans. They deserve to not be maltreated of course, because cruelty in general should not happen. The psychological implications of humanely raising them for slaughter are not in par with those implications if it were to be done too humans. The animals do not understand that they will reach an inevitable death by others. Humans would be sickened to grow up like that. They would become very disturbed as they grow older. Cows don't have much of a different life when they're free than when they're kept for food (at least the ones that are raised humanely). In fact, they may even have a better life (guaranteed food, medicine, protection from the elements at night, etc.) I'm not learned on this subject, it's just my two cents.

  15. None of your points address (or have ever addressed) the fundamental problem with dog-meat consumption, namely that it is impossible to farm dogs humanely, because of their relative intelligence and awareness of what's going on around them. The Korean has obviously never lived on a farm, or worked closely with livestock. I grew up on a farm and we owned, slaughtered and ate a variety of different animals. I know about animal welfare in animal husbandry; The Korean does not.

    Here's the thing: cows and pigs have been bred for consumption for thousands of years. Dogs have been bred to be companions, guards, hunters and workers. You can pen pigs and cows and slaughter them, and their companions will happily go on eating and socializing nearby without any stress. Dogs are completely different, penning them even for a short amount of time creates a great deal of stress for them; killing other dogs in their vicinity is incredibly traumatic, because they're keenly aware of their likely fate.

    One last point: killing dogs with deliberate violence is widespread in Korea. I sat and ate with (though didn't buy) dog meat in a number of Korean restaurants in Korea over the years, and this fact was communicated to me several times matter-of-factly by patrons and owners. I also lived near a dog farm, and heard them screaming all the time. No amount of regulation will curb this deliberate torture, which is rooted and couched in lore. Of course, the Korean - as well as the dog-industry in Korea - would prefer that this inconvenient truth was kept out of the spotlight.

    This statement: "Animal rights groups are ultimately not interested in the welfare of dogs," is one of the silliest statements I've read in a long time, and just serves to highlight a complete lack of understanding of animal empathy, and his unwillingless to grapple with the hard truths of the industry he's defending.

    The whole "imperialism" and "cultural conquest" rant is a projection of insecurity, nothing more. Let's argue about animal welfare and dog-meat, and stop trying to invent motives and agendas that don't exist.

    1. The Korean has obviously never lived on a farm, or worked closely with livestock.

      You are wrong.

      Dogs are completely different, penning them even for a short amount of time creates a great deal of stress for them; killing other dogs in their vicinity is incredibly traumatic, because they're keenly aware of their likely fate.

      So what? The point is not to create some type of vacation resort for meat dogs. The point is to create a decent enough living environment for meat dogs. They do not have such environment now, and amending the LPA would have significantly improved their living conditions. And again, it was the animal rights group that stopped the amendment.

      No amount of regulation will curb this deliberate torture, which is rooted and couched in lore.

      That's an interesting statement from someone who claims that "cultural conquest" is no more than a projection. Your entire point is that these barbaric Koreans will not listen to the law because their barbarism is so ingrained in the culture, and at the same time you claim that you are not engaging cultural conquest? Such double-talk makes it difficult for me to take you seriously.

    2. "You are wrong."

      I am? Did you visit a petting zoo when you were a kid?

      "So what? The point is not to create some type of vacation resort for meat dogs. The point is to create a decent enough living environment for meat dogs."

      Which is impossible. Once again, dogs need space and they need to be kept away from the slaughter-yard. There simply isn't enough space in Korea to farm dogs humanely, and the dog-meat market operates on razer-thin margins. As I'm sure you're aware, it's economic fare, not gourmet food. You're never going to be able to provide "meat dogs" with anything approaching a humane life, because cages are the most efficient penning system, and there is no space or funds for alternative options.

      "Your entire point is that these barbaric Koreans will not listen to the law because their barbarism is so ingrained in the culture, and at the same time you claim that you are not engaging cultural conquest?"

      I never mentioned barbarism or 'barbaric Koreans', so stop inventing straw-men. My regard for Koreans is polar opposite to what you presume. At the end of the day, there is a widespread belief in Korea that dog-meat improves sexual function, and that torturing dogs makes the meat taste better. This is a fact, and it is lore. When something is rooted in lore - whether it be in Korea, or America, or Iceland, or Mars - it invests in itself a certain inertia and durability. Which is why I don't believe attempting to nudge and coerce the dog-meat industry using toothless regulations will do much to better their welfare.

    3. Which is impossible.

      Only if you want to create a five star resort for dogs.

      I never mentioned barbarism or 'barbaric Koreans', so stop inventing straw-men.

      Right, I should just ignore all your clear insinuations. I think I'll ignore everything you say instead.

  16. "Only if you want to create a five star resort for dogs."

    The difference between a small cage next to a butcher and a five star resort is perhaps larger than you think.

    "Right, I should just ignore all your clear insinuations."

    Clear, if you lack clarity of thought, or happen to be fixated with a concept or idea - like "culturalism" (which by the way, you didn't coin).

    "I think I'll ignore everything you say instead."

    Go ahead - it's a poor thinker who ignores or evades contrary arguments, rather than examine and address them in a mature way.

    1. Van ~ Thank you. 고마워요~ 고마워요~ 고마워요!

      I live in South Korea and you are exactly right. I recently saved 2 dogs from being tortured and the "regulated" pig/cow farms are no better. Regulation doesn't mean dick to those who have NO respect for animals and ZERO empathy for their suffering + police/district officers who do nothing - EXCEPT - when forced they will show up and sit in their cars until the dog cannot withstand any more beating, stops screaming and crumbles, they wait until after the cleanup, go chat with the butcher, bow and leave.

      *****I CAN PROVIDE RECENT PHOTOS AND FILM FOOTAGE. Wanna see it, TK? I could fill your blog up with up-to-date torture. Sound good? Just say the word. ;-) **** and the pigs??? and cows??? Really??? Yeah, they're still squeezed in together and falling into their own shit daily... fed old rotting garbage mixed with chemicals. Do the Google/Naver research.... go ahead... while I live here in South Korea and see/know it. But.. You're an expert regarding farming in Korea, huh. Oh yeah. I almost forgot.

      TK ~ You just go pilfering stats and opinions off Google or Naver to defend your egotistical rants, don't you? I noticed you don't have much to say about Buddhists here. And their stance on dog meat farming. Example --> http://animalrightskorea.org/dog-related-news/venerable-beopjeong-buddhist-priests-argument-against-dog-meat-consumption.html

      "TK" ~ You are incredibly ill-informed and talk a WHOLE lot. I think I'll start asking Koreans here what they think about you being an EXPERT on all things Korean, especially the dog meat trade.

      Sound familair? --> * "Please, go fuck yourself. Seriously, please remove yourself from The Korean’s vicinity and give yourself a handjob." <--"The Korean" responding to KARA, Soonrye Yim, Korean Director based in South Korea

      * http://animalrightskorea.org/member-articles/ Wow. Ego much?

      Please work on getting over yourself. Too much ego isn't healthy.

    2. In case my comment unsurprisingly disappears... Thanks again,Van! ~ from us in Korea trying to make Korea a better place for animals, Koreans who love animals/detest dog consumption and the children here.

      We need more people like you... standing up for compassion and empathy.



    3. Mia gata, I'm not sure if you can use the Buddhists to justify it. I mean the USA has strict Christians who are hell-bent on censuring anything vaguely resembling sex, but it doesn't stop the USA from being a country where the overwhelming majority has had premarital sex and the media has adds sex appeal into pop culture.

      You bring up the point that the pig and cow industries are as bad as the dog industry. That may be true, but I believe TK wants it to be ACTUALLY regulated, and not just have a regulated sticker slapped on cruelly-treated dog meat.

  17. CARE is against the dog meat trade because they are an animal RIGHTS organization, not an animal welfare organization. The difference between animal welfare and animal rights is the animal rights wishes to abolish the consumption of animals, full stop, which is why they see dog meat as an opportunity.

  18. "Animal rights groups are ultimately not interested in the welfare of dogs. They certainly care about the welfare of meat dogs, but only as a means to their ultimate end - that is, the validation of their worldview through cultural conquest."

    Who in the group? Because last I checked, people don't join animal welfare groups for "cultural conquest", they join because they care about animals. At most, cultural conquest would be a means to an end, not the other way around!

    Perhaps you are saying that the leaders of animal welfare groups are corrupt. If so, please be clear about it.

    "But how else can anyone reconcile the apparent irony that animal rights groups denounced a legislation that would have improved the miserable lot of meat dogs in Korea, while celebrating a law that, if their characterization of the Korean government is to be believed, would do nothing to protect animals?"

    You might know of Occam's Razor. There's a similar principle called Hanlon's Razor:
    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

    I highly doubt that animal rights groups are selfish in the way you described. Most likely they are just stupid and don't recognize a good strategy that benefits animals. They think like Superman, not like economists.


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