Dog meat festival causes controversy
By Lee Hyo-sik
A group of “dog farmers” Friday dropped its plan to hold a “dog meat” festival due to strong opposition from animal rights groups.
The Korea Dog Farmers’ Association had announced earlier it planned to hold the “2011 Dog Meat Festival” at Moran Traditional Market in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, on July 1.
They argued that the festival aimed to help promote the fact that the animals are raised like cows, pigs and other livestock at sanitary facilities for human consumption. They also said that dogs should be classified as such to ensure they are bred in a safer and more sanitary manner.
But their plan immediately reignited a decades-old controversy over Koreans’ consumption of the animal, considered man’s best friend in many countries, and drew severe criticism. It later led the market’s meat sellers, the co-hosts of the event, to withdraw the plan for fear that it could harm their reputation.
“We first thought it was just an event to invite senior citizens and offer them free meals,” a meat seller at the market said. “But the dog farmers’ association seemed to want to use the event in a different way from what we first thought.”
The sudden cancellation came after animal rights groups vowed to prevent the planned festival by mobilizing whatever means necessary, stressing that it is inhuman and unethical to eat meat from dogs. They said if the event proceeds, it will seriously tarnish Korea’s image abroad and turn more foreigners hostile toward the country.
“We are prepared to break the law if that is the only way to stop the festival from taking place. It is just absurd to organize such an event. The organizers must be insane. The festival will definitely hurt Korea’s international image and discourage many foreigners from coming here,” said Park So-young, president of the Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth.
Park said her organization had gathered signatures from supporters online in a bid to stop the festival. “We were going to take a range of measures to boycott the event. One of them was to gather signatures from Internet users and send our message to Cheong Wa Dae and Seongnam City, she said.
Seongnam had complaints from a number of dog lovers as it remained on the sidelines, saying the issue was between two opposing private parties.
“Anybody can receive a permit from municipal administrations and organize a festival. There was nothing illegal with what the Korea Dog Farmers’ Association planned to do,” said Shin Eun-sik, manager of the city’s animal resources team.
Shin said the law does not prohibit the sale and consumption of dog. “Dogs are not classified as livestock, which means eating dog is neither legal nor illegal. It is a gray area and the government has yet to do anything more about it.”
In the past, the government tried to legalize the sale of the meat by categorizing dogs as livestock. But such a move met strong opposition from animal rights groups and dog lovers at home and abroad.
After the withdrawal of the plan by the market’s meat sellers, the association said it will hold the festival in a different place in the future.
The association originally organized the event to dispel the public misconception about dogs raised for human consumption, as well as to promote a range of dog meat dishes, such as “boshintang” or spicy dog soup, and their health benefits.
An exhibition was also planned to encourage the consumption of the meat and publicize that dogs have also been or still are consumed in France, China and other countries.
Under the current law, it is illegal to butcher dogs and trade their meat as they are not categorized as livestock, but the government has been unable to regulate the sale of the meat as it is a part of long-rooted Korean dining culture.
“The purpose of organizing the upcoming festival was to encourage more people to consume dog meat. Due to animal rights groups’ movement against the consumption, Koreans now eat less, hurting the bottom line of many dog farmers like myself. But this has to change because dogs are just like other livestock and raised in a sanitary environment,” said Choi Young-in, secretary general of the Korea Dog Farmers’ Association.
Choi said dogs bred for human consumption are fed on food waste, helping to save the environment.