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6 things you should know about Korea’s dog meat farms

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In some countries the idea of putting dog on a dinner plate is as akin to eating a family member. But in South Korea during the hottest days of summer, a serving of dog meat soup is said to both reinvigorate the health of its consumers as well as incite a hearty cultural debate.

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Dog meat consumption continues in many parts of the world – with the popularity of the practice prevalent in Asia more than other regions. South Korea differs from most dog meat eating countries in one key area: The dogs are classified as livestock and raised on specific dog meat farms.

What about Australia?

In most of the country, it is not an offence to eat dog meat – except South Australia which prohibits the consumption, including the killing for such purpose. But while it is not illegal to eat dog meat, the sale and production of the product is prohibited under meat processing standard and codes. Where the law allows consumption, is under home production (except for South Australia).

How many dogs are killed per year for food?

The Humane Society International (HSI) estimates 30 million dogs are killed for human consumption every year across Asia. President of the dog meat association, Kim Jong Suk, tells Dateline South Korea contributes a small number to that total.

“In order to produce 2 million dogs, we need to raise 3 million dogs. That way we can slaughter 2 million dogs. That’s how it works,” he says.

South Korea is reported to have 17,000 dog meat farms around the country according to HSI, where dogs can be sold live or already slaughtered to suppliers. Electrocution is a common way to kill the dogs before they are butchered, while smaller operations have been filmed hanging dogs.

Which dog breeds are farmed for meat?

Nureongi, a yellow spitz, is often used as a livestock dog in Korea. Another breed common in Korea dog farms is the Tosa, a type of mastiff that is bred for the purpose of meat due to its size. Pungsan, a native dog to Korea, and other breeds have also been found in farms that have been forced to close.

Why is it eaten?

South Korea is renowned as a technologically advanced country with a high standard of living and plentiful resources. However, the practice of eating dog meat is largely traditional, with the majority of its participants from an older generation.

The country was not always wealthy and industrialised, and previously had strong agricultural influences. During lean times, dog meat was used as a source of protein.

Today, Bosintang, a slow cooked soup of dog meat and vegetables, is the most common dish containing dog. Its consumers believe of eating the meat benefits include improved vitality and health during the summer.

Bosintang
Bosintang is the most common dog meat dish in South Korea.
Dateline

When is it eaten?

In South Korea, dog meat is traditionally eaten in the summer, particularly around the hottest days of the year. Bok Nal Days, or ‘Dog Days’, are the three hottest days between July and August according to the lunar calendar. During this time, 70-80 percent of the country’s dog meat is consumed.

Where are the farms?

Gimpo, a region approximately one hour’s drive west of Korea’s capital, Seoul, is colloquially known as “dog meat valley” due to its number of dog meat farms. A non-profit rescue centre, SaveKoreanDogs, is also based in Gimpo due to its proximity to the farms.

What does it taste like?

Dog meat is said to have a strong, nutty flavour. It is often slow cooked to remove its toughness, while Bosintang, the dog meat soup is flavoured with strong herbs and spices to mask the strong smell of the meat.