By Shirley Han Ying
Thursday, August 3, 2006
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Animal rights organizations in South Korea are stepping up their campaigns to stamp out the traditional practice of eating "boshintang" -- dog soup -- during the hot and humid summer months.
An animal rights activist dressed as a dog is shown during a July 26 performance in Seoul.
To highlight the pain and suffering endured by the animals when they are slaughtered, the Korean Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) last week held a street performance at Insa-dong in downtown Seoul.
The performance, on July 26, portrayed the inhumane slaughter of dogs in a Korean traditional market known as the Moran market.
During the performance, a huge bag containing the internal organs from slaughtered dogs was slit open by a butcher, spilling the gory contents onto the pavement. The mostly Korean audience gasped at the brutality of the scene.
Artist Hassen Chung, who directed the performance, said the daily slaughter of dogs at the Moran market was "not a part of Korean tradition or custom."
"It is purely and simply the most vicious act of violence that can (be) done to animals. This pernicious habit must end and disappear for good. There cannot be any more excuses for the existence of the market that has become the symbol of animal torture."
Hyo-jin Kim, the director of KARA, told The Korea Herald newspaper that more than 3 million dogs are annually slaughtered for their meat in Korea. To keep costs down, the dogs are kept in tiny cages to minimize their movement, Kim said. The conditions under which they are kept cause unbearable stress to the animals, he added.
KARA began its anti-dog-eating campaign in 2002. As dog meat is very popular in Korea, the group experienced a lot of difficulty in promoting the campaign.
"There are many people that believe this campaign is an invasion of Western imperialism on Korean tradition," Kim said. "Those people are overwhelmed with such nationalism that even faced with logic on why dog meat should be banned, they choose to ignore it," she said.
"There are also people that try to differentiate between dogs that are bred only for their meat and dogs that are meant to be kept as companion animals," Kim added. "Animal rights activists are tremendously outnumbered in a country where most people are ignorant toward animal protection."
Founded in 2002, KARA began with a group of pet lovers seeking to change attitudes toward animals in Korean society and make South Korea a better place for both people and animals. On December 30, 2005, KARA was registered as a nongovernmental organization and now has some 7,000 members.
KARA is focusing now on how to stop the South Korean government legalizing dog meat in Korea. The group has participated in several protest demonstrations and political actions against the "dog meat lobby." It has also submitted numerous petitions and research documents to South Korean government agencies and private organizations.