An animal charity mission to save around 70 dogs from the meat farm in Hongseong finally got underway after Humane Society International worked with the farmer to convince him to quit the dog meat industry once and for all.
The rescue, originally scheduled for early March, was brought to a sudden halt when the coronavirus lock-down hit South Korea and the rest of the world, making moving the dogs impossible.
International travel restrictions still mean the dogs can’t yet fly to their final destination – Canada and the United States – where they will eventually find adoptive homes.
So in the meantime, HSI is relocating them to a temporary boarding facility in South Korea where they will receive veterinary care rehabilitation.
Mr Nakseon Kim had been breeding dogs for nearly 40 years but amid growing opposition to eating them, and a series of new regulations and court rulings cracking down on the industry, farmers like Mr Kim are increasingly looking for an exit strategy.
Farmer Kim said: ‘It may sound odd but I started dog farming because I like dogs. I’ve never actually been a big fan of dog meat myself. I had a few dogs so I began breeding them and when I had 20 or 30 I started to sell them because I thought it would be good money but it hasn’t really worked out that way.
‘I earn nothing from this dog farm, and pressure from the government is increasing and it’s not a good business at all.’
At his property in Hongseong, Mr Kim breeds Poodles, Beagles, Huskies, Golden retrievers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Boston terriers for two abusive industries – the meat trade and the puppy mill trade.
After years of sending the animals to slaughter, Mr Kim will now start a new life growing cabbages and other vegetables instead, with the help of the charity.
Nara Kim, HSI’s dog meat campaigner, said: ‘Unfortunately, it is still very common in South Korea to see live puppies for sale in pet shop windows. But what most Koreans will be shocked to learn is that these same puppies could easily have ended up being killed for human consumption instead.
‘Whether they live or die, they are all born in this miserable place, their mothers intensively bred over and over until they are exhausted and eventually sold to slaughterhouses.
‘I’m so glad that this nightmare has ended for these lovely dogs, but until the government commits to phase out this dreadful industry, the nightmare continues for millions more. As Koreans we need to be their voice and call for an end to the dog farming and dog meat industries.’
Mr Kim’s farm was the 16th of its kind to be closed since its farmer transition program began in 2015.
Once off the farm, the dogs will receive veterinary attention for any injuries or ailments. For example, Winkie the Boston terrier had a badly injured eye, and Grace the Beagle lost a paw caught in the jagged wire floor of her cage.
Dog meat consumption has been steadily declining in South Korea, and is banned or severely restricted in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines.
In 2018 both Indonesia and Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi pledged an end to the dog meat trade, and most recently in April 2020 the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai banned dog and cat meat consumption following a public statement by the Chinese government that dogs are considered companions and not livestock.
As global pressure builds for countries across Asia to permanently close wildlife wet markets amid coronavirus risks, the array of undeniable human health risks posed by the dog meat trade in South Korea and across Asia, is strengthening calls for action across the continent.