One small step for man's best friend...
Across the world, but especially in the United States and other Western countries, the idea of eating dog meat is repulsive.
While it has been practiced on every continent, eating dog meat is seen as taboo in much of Western culture, largely because we view dogs as intelligent animals and loving pets, if not as family. On the other hand, it constitutes a part of the daily cuisine for many cultures, specifically in countries like China, Korea, several African countries, and even Switzerland.
It’s a complicated argument. “Right” and “wrong” don’t apply here as diet is culturally relative, and judging something like food simply from an ethnocentric point of view is a flawed approach to any debate. Many things we eat in the United States would be seen as offensive or sacrilege in numerous cultures and religions.
But one thing that’s easy to agree on is that all animals, especially livestock, should be treated humanely.
For those who want to see a more humane treatment of dogs across the world, there is some truly good news coming out of South Korea this week.
Family Not Food
The issue of edible dog meat is a contentious one that many people are sure to feel strongly about. And while cultural dietary preferences that are normal in one place don’t always seem valid in another, we have to remember this is someone else’s tradition and way of life.
But one thing that goes without saying is the treatment of any animal before it is bought, sold, or butchered for food. In the United States, horrifying videos documenting the reprehensible methods many companies and farms use to cage and butcher animals for slaughter often pop up to shock us about the very places we trust with our own food.
In countries like South Korea, some breeds of dog are considered livestock, the same as any other farm animal, available in dog meat markets for purchase. Sadly, while awaiting their fate, countless dogs are kept in overcrowded cages and other distressing conditions. The most common dog eaten in South Korea is the Nureongi.
Even within South Korea, however, protests against the treatment and slaughter of dogs are common.
One of the most popular sites for such protests is the Moran Market in Seongnam, a city located south of Seoul. Opened in the 1960s, Moran Market is the largest dog meat market in the country and sells some 80,000 dogs each year, one third of all dog meat sold in South Korea.
Although South Korean law states that dogs (and other livestock) cannot be killed inhumanely, the conditions they’re often kept in at markets such as Moran hardly seem up to legal standards. In fact, though the law specifically prohibits dogs from being killed in public places, the Moran Market allows customers to buy living or dead dogs, as well as to have them slaughtered on the spot.
Finally, Seongnam’s city government is taking action.
The First Step
This week, the Seongnam city government announced that it will begin implementing major changes to the dog meat trade at the Moran Market.
As part of an effort to refurbish the market as a whole and improve its reputation, the city is forbidding the slaughter of dogs at the open-air venue. City officials also promised that they would be closely monitoring dog meat shops to ensure that they are holding up their agreement.
Though it’s only a start, this appears to be the first step in a larger process to curtail the dog meat industry in the country.
“Starting off with the removal of slaughtering facilities and cages in the market, we will ultimately stop the dog meat trade in Moran Market,” said one official.
The city mayor, Lee Jae-myung, promised, “This may be the beginning of [a long path toward] solving issues surrounding dog meat consumption. [The agreement] will hopefully eradicate the negative image of Moran Market.”
So what’s next?