The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics has been an exhilarating rush of snow, ice and sport, but amongst the shadows, it’s also been host to a something of a slightly more controversial variety, in the form of serving and consuming dog meat.
The practice of eating dog meat is undertaken by several countries in Asia, including China, Vietnam, Indonesia and North and South Korea. According to the animal charity, Humane Society International, South Korea in particular are believed to consume roughly 2.5 million dogs each year.
Many breeds of dogs, from huskies and labradors to cocker spaniels are commercially farmed for their meat, with millions being bred in areas known as ‘farms’. Though the places themselves are nothing like the freedom and rurality of better-known farms. Here, the canines spend their lives in cages before being electrocuted and turned into bowls of red broth, with proposed healing qualities.
Even though there are no legal consequences when it comes to the sale of dog meat in South Korea, prior to the 2018 Olympics taking place, 12 of the restaurants in Pyeongchang who served dog meat were asked by the South Korean government to stop doing so during the event. However, only two out of the 12 restaurants were reported to have been complicit in this request. The remaining ten restaurants continued with the practice of serving dog meat throughout the entirety of the Olympics, alluding to high customer demand.
Pyeongchang County government official Lee Yong-bae stated that the restaurants who continued this sale of dog meat insisted that this was due to the ban threatening to ruin their source of income and living. Yong-bae informed the media that ‘Some of them initially shifted to selling pork or things instead of dog meat only to find their sales plunging sharply. They then switched back to dog meat,’
This practice has led to to the launch of several campaigns by activists to ban this form of dog consumption. The issue has also bought about several online petitions urging people to shun the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Many of the athletes taking parts in the event formed part of those campaigning in order to try and help save the canines from the Korean dog meat trade. American Olympic skier, Gus Kenworthy rescued a pup in the form of ‘Beemo’, although he first came to light for his pup loving nature after adopting a family of stray dogs at the Sochi Olympics 4 years previously.
Kenworthy wrote on Twitter that whilst it wasn’t for him to impose Western ideals onto the onto the traditional Korean practice of consuming dog meat, he also stated “The dogs here are malnourished and physically abused, crammed into tiny wire-floored pens, and exposed to the freezing winter elements and scorching summer conditions. When it comes time to put one down it is done so in front of the other dogs by means of electrocution sometimes taking up to 20 agonizing minutes.”
To assist with the welfare of these pups, Veterinarians from Humane Society international were on hand at one of these dog farms; ‘Farm No. 11’ during the Olympics, administering vaccinations.
Outside of the ice rink, another athlete helping to rescue their four-legged friends is Canadian figure skater Meagan Duhamel. She claimed gold in the form of adopting a miniature dachshund mix ‘Mootate’ from Farm No.11, whilst rescuing another pooch called ‘Daegong’. Duhamel said on Instagram “Mootae is free from the Korean dog meat industry.” And “enjoys lounging in the sunshine in the safety of his own home.”
Duhamel is also hoping to assist with HSI in terms of shutting down a couple of these dog farms. Rebecca Aldworth, executive director at HSI Canada recently stated that “We can’t stop this industry one dog meat farm at a time,” But the closures of farms like No. 11, she says, shine “a global spotlight on the dog meat trade” and the way HSI does it gives the Korean government “an economic model … to follow when it makes the decision to end the dog meat trade.”
One paw at a time.