Paul McCartney once said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarian.” I can’t help but agree as I have seen some footage of how (we) treat animals and that footage alone has swayed me away from the practice of eating meat. As most know, there is a practice of raising dogs for consumption in China and South Korea. What is below is my first unpleasant look behind the curtain of the dog meat trade in Korea.
In late summer 2005, I made the decision to move to South Korea to travel, explore the Korean peninsula and further out into Asia. Sometime in the late winter/early spring of 2006, I went to an island near Incheon and stayed the weekend at a Korean B&B. After exploring the island during the first day, which included visiting one of the oldest settlements in South Korea, it was then followed up with the Korean tradition spending the night of eating and drinking to excess with friends. Early the next morning, I woke up to the sounds of dogs moaning and barking. I went outside, around to the back of the house and saw about eight to ten dogs of varying ages in quite a state.
“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” Immanuel Kant
Immediately I could tell that they were starving. They looked emaciated. I went back into the house, found and gathered up all the food I could find (and was safe for the dogs), went back outside and began to feed them what I could. Some were receptive, happy, and ate up the food right away. Other dogs were really aggressive and threatening. Now, I know some reading this may object to me feeding strange dogs on a stranger’s property human food as being objectively wrong, however there was a state to these animals, much like walking through a prison camp which demanded immediate action.
After a few minutes, the owner of the B&B came out and started yelling at me in Korean. He pulled me away from the dogs and threw the food to the ground. Later I was told by a Korean travelling companion that those dogs were being raised by the owners for food. Something I had only thought of as conjecture and the butt of joke for Western media.
Their cages were no larger than their width and length of their own bodies and the bottom of their cages were sunk into the muck and mire of the clay-ish half-frozen ground that flanked the B&B. It was haunting experience. As the yelling match began, some of my party was awaken to the noise coming from the back of the property and a friend began to pull me back away from the cages. I was later told that I wasn’t supposed to have seen those cages as the island didn’t allow this practice. As I walked back to the B&B, the owner began hitting the cages of those dogs that accepted the food and even began poking some of them with what looked to be like a small bull-hook.
When I came to Korea in the summer of 2005, I made myself try to deprogram some of the stereotypes of Korea and Korean culture that had been taught to me by Western media and to learn how the ‘real’ Korea is. I guess I got to see how the real Korea is on that chilly morning in 2006.
If modern civilized man had to keep the animals he eats, the number of vegetarians would rise astronomically.