Canine Cuisine: A Custom Or A Crime?
by Brenda Shoss
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Last December, Hope stood outside the Korean Embassy in London to protest President Kim Dae Jung's U.K. tour. Amid cries of "Shame, Shame, Shame!" Hope volunteered a few auspicious bow-wows. The rescued four-legger joined her human guardians to object to the Korean dog-meat industry that almost claimed her life.
In January dog meat connoisseurs unleashed Doctor Dogmeat to offset skeptics and plug mutt meals in time for the 2002 World Cup soccer finals in South Korea from May 31 to June 30. The academic mascot, Chungchong University professor Ahn Yong-keun, disclosed plans for promotional websites and new restaurants to entertain tourists near World Cup stadiums.
Puppies for dinner? To Americans, the desecration of humankind's best friend is repugnant. "This is a matter of cultural difference," restaurateur Na Hyun-woo told The Korea Herald. "Westerners have eating practices that we cannot understand...They eat horse intestines and pluck out lambs' eyes and regard them as delicacies."
Okay, hit us with our own hypocrisy. But the clash between those who champion canine cuisine and those who don't has escalated, with demonstrations outside Korean embassies in New York City, London, Australia and Argentina. Among the naysayers are sisters Sunnan and Kyenan Kum, co-founders of the International Aid for Korean Animals (IAKA) and the Korea Animal Protection Society (KAPS) shelter in Taegu, South Korea.
IAKA claims the so-called "Korean cultural tradition" is a myth invented to promote a lucrative trade that annually slaughters over 2 million dogs and cats. "It comes as no surprise that my sister and I, both native Koreans, are never mentioned as the leaders in the fight against the illegal meat trade," Kyenan says. "How can Korea's dog meat advocates cry racism, or Ślack of cultural understanding' if Koreans themselves are leading the opposition?"
Koreans are a mixed bag of opinion. In 1984 the Ministry of Health and Welfare dubbed dog meat a "disgusting food" and outlawed it for human ingestion. The Korean Animal Protection Act of 1991 grants dogs and cats immunity from select livestock such as cows, pigs and chickens. But the vague laws don't prohibit Illicit dog farms. They don't ban violent slaughter methods believed to enrich meat flavor and stimulate virility in those who eat it. They don't regulate the dealers and herbal medicine practitioners who routinely pump steroids, testosterone and other hormones into dog soups and tonics.
Several years ago a Korean television station aired a report about a typical market. The footage reveals malnourished mongrels and pedigreed pooches--some stolen and still wearing collars--staring from fly-infested cages under the sweltering sun. A few wag tails pitiably as human hands reach in to beat them. In a bizarre effort to "tenderize" flesh and expel adrenaline thought to increase the meat's aphrodisiacal qualities, workers provoke as much terror as possible.
Bloody water trickles past diners as they shop for the dog destined to become their meal. "How much does this dog weigh?" a customer asks. "About 27-28kun. (36-37 pounds)," the dealer responds. When the sale is finalized, the dog is roped and dragged from the cage. One worker grips him while another bludgeons his head with a metal bar. An electric rod finishes the slaughter. Other dogs, electrocuted immediately, shriek before their bodies stiffen.
The animals are then submerged in tanks equipped with boiling water and whirlpools to strip away fur. Blowtorches are applied to brown their skin. In some cases, dogs regain consciousness during processing. In July and August, Korea's "dog days," dealers sell nearly 1,000 dogs a day.
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