Saturday, August 20, 2011

Korea Herald... and Roboseyo... on Dog Meat

Korea Herald ran an article about eating Dog Meat in Korea -- a topic that received a lot of world attention in 1988 around the Olympics, at which time Seoul carefully squirreled away dog restaurants, in 2002 around the World Cup, at which time the response was more along the lines of "Respect our culture." It will happen again in 2018, when the Winter Games comes to Pyeongchang, and what the response is, is anybody's guess.

The Korean, of Ask A Korean! wrote in support of dog meat, and has brought the ire of every PETA person who finds his blog down upon his head. 197 comments in response, as of this writing.

I read up a little on dog meat while preparing for my essays about the Olympics, because the issue came up as one of the arenas where Korea wanted to put a positive image of itself onto the world stage. Not exhaustively, but a little.

"Animal Rights vs. Cultural Rights: Exploring the Dog Meat Debate in South Korea from a World Polity Perspective" (Minjoo Oh & Jeffrey Jackson, Journal of Intercultural Studies Vol. 32.1 Feb. 2011) gave an interesting history of dog meat controversies in Korea, and explores the tensions that occur when groups proclaiming universal values (and possibly wearing their colonial arrogance on their chests) come across local groups with other ideas. If you'd like to read it, contact me, and I'll get your hands on a copy.

Some of the things it's got me thinking about:
1. Rhetoric from leaders has little meaning when it is not internalized by the locals. (See also: multiculturalism, globalization).

2. Rhetoric from international bodies and discussion of global norms has little effect if it does not resonate with something in the locals.

3. Formally adopting a policy is not the same as actually having it done in practice. (See also: maternity leave in Korea)

4. Don't underestimate nationalism and cultural exceptionalism.

5. Trying to take something away sometimes makes people hold onto it tighter.

6. As nations enter global community, there needs to remain space for local particularities, and dialogues about where those lines are drawn never end.

7. Sometimes, the way to clear space for local particularities is to announce global norms as window dressing... and then not enforce/implement it.

8. Shame tactics can provoke a backlash. Especially in the context of discussions about modernism, and in discussions between more and less developed countries, or more and less recently developed countries.

According to some of my reading, interestingly, partly because it's faced international opposition, eating dog has become seen (by some Koreans) as one way to celebrate their Koreanness -- because some furriners want to take it away, it suddenly gets chunked into the same category as pansoori, Arirang, and Other Heritages In Danger Of Vanishing. The article I mentioned above states that after the '88 Olympics, more Koreans had neutral or positive feelings toward eating dog, and more ate dog, than they did before some furriners tried to make them stop doing it.

Once again:
Eating dog is more popular now than it was before facing opposition from NGOs and such in 1988.

The Korea Herald piece presents two sides: pro and con. Stephen "Why Aren't You Respect The Korea Culture?" Bant argues against eating dogs, and Ann "I Used The Family Photographer Who Hasnt Bought New Equipment Or Backgrounds Since 1978" Yong-geun argues for it.

On the "Dogs are friends, not food" side, Bant comes across, frankly, as a little high-handed: a selection of words from his piece that demonstrate his attitude: "evolved" "uncivilized" "ignorant peasants." His posture comes across, in spots, as being one of the enlightened, bringing truth to the savages. Where his tone comes across that way, it rubs me the wrong way.

Then, in his last few paragraphs, he goes so far as to question the manhood of those who eat dogs. Directly after suggesting that those who don't eat dog meat don't need stamina supplements, he says,

"But dog eaters suffer other inadequacies. They say that in summer they cannot do without dog meat for energy. Well, perhaps if they exercised a litle, it would boost that flaccid physical condition of theirs." [emphasis added]

And that, sirs and madams, is called a cheap shot.

Bant also mentions that dogs are companions. And implies that using dogs as companions is a sign that a society is developed. I didn't realize that was the measure. I thought there was something about industrialization and access to education and medical technology and growth of civil society in there, too, but I've been wrong before. Using dogs as pets strikes me as a very culturally specific measure to choose as the barometer of a developed society -- I might as soon (and as arbitrarily) choose really good maple syrup as the measure of an advanced society... but I'd be showing my bias-cards then, wouldn't I? Do Indians look at Americans with envy, because Americans have pet dogs, and all they ever managed was big, unwieldy cows? Or do they see Westerners as savages, for coddling dogs, when they've discovered a far more bovine animal to revere?

In the bio, it explains that the writer is a vegan. And that matters.

On the pro-dog meat side, Ann Yong-geun plays the cultural relativity card, suggests that not all dogs are friends, and asks that people not force their opinions on others. Some of his points - like the one that Koreans only eat dogs that are specially bred for eating, are patently wrong or contradicted in his article -- almost every student over 40 with whom I've had this conversation, had a pet dog, or knows of a family who had a pet dog, that was stolen and eaten by a neighbor. This was also answered by Stephen in his article. Ann also points out that animal shelters in the West euthanize dogs regularly, and points out that if animal shelters destroy dogs anyway, why not make some use of the carcass, and eat a dog that's already dead, maybe even turn a profit from cooking it after it's been destroyed, rather than having to also pay for disposing of it the body. A fair point... but didn't he just say only specially raised breeds of dogs were supposed to be eaten?

Most interesting, he suggests that housing a dog in a human's home is an unnatural state for a dog, and they should be left to live wild; that keeping dogs as pets is just as unnatural and cruel as confining it to eat it.

Then he veers of into fishy territory, suggesting that Westerners don't eat dogs because it's in the bible. I got nothing to say about that, except that I suppose it's fair that both articles unravel toward the end, one with cheap shots, and the other with tangential borderline-nonsense.

Anyway, interesting pair of articles.

My own thoughts:

1. Korea is trapped in a bind. The dog meat industry here is terribly unregulated [update: it's fairer to say underregulated], which means that there's little to no control over the conditions in which dogs are raised and slaughtered, which in turn means that for all we know, many dogs continue to be raised and slaughtered in really viciously disgusting conditions (according to legend, slaughtering a dog by beating it to death produces the most delicious meat). The problem is, when the government tries to regulate dog meat, which would put them in a position to remove cruelty from the farming and serving of dog, animal rights people and humane society people, start raising a stink about banning it entirely. This meets resistance from people who believe them furriners (or them arrogant youngsters who need to get off my lawn, or just some ignorant people who have never tried it and should keep their nose out of it,) are trying to take away an important Korean traditional thing. That debate attracts negative international attention (which Korean leaders and image-sculptors hate). Better not to talk about it than to risk having all that dirty laundry run up a flagpole for everyone to see.  (see also: prostitution, suicide, abortion)

2. Stephen Bant is a vegan, so he's allowed to tell us that we shouldn't eat dog. He would probably argue just as passionately why we shouldn't eat chicken, pork, beef, ostrich, giraffe, or gorilla. His position is consistent.

But if you eat pig, you can't say it's wrong to eat dog. Pigs are remarkably smart: the intelligence argument doesn't fly. Some keep pigs as pets, too. If you eat any living thing (with the possible exception of wild game), you don't have a leg to stand on, saying that it's wrong to eat dog, but OK to eat chicken, ostrich, pig, cow, kangaroo, alligator, shrimp, oysters, turducken, or any other critter. Choosing which animals are wrong to kill and/or eat on the basis of cuteness is inconsistent and hypocritical: don't tell me it's wrong to cull cute baby seals because it's cruel, but it's OK to exterminate scabby rats on Manhattan Island.

I'm sympathetic to vegetarians for two moral reasons - I used to do summer work on farms, and it's really hard to raise meat in a way that's cost-effective and affordable, without being a little horrible. There's a reason many livestock farmers' kids grow up to be vegetarians. Particularly industrial chicken farming is so horrific, nobody should eat that shit. I'm sparing you links to photos and videos... but just google it. If the comment discussion gets interesting, I'm sure somebody will be considerate enough to include links in the comments to pages where you can see pictures and video from industrial farms. It's awful, and will make you sad for days.

I'm also sympathetic because in terms of efficiently using the world's resources to feed the world's humans, livestock a terrible choice. Growing beans and nuts to provide humans with protein, and making it into tofu and stuff, uses so much less of the world's resources, it's ridiculous. You know how many humans could be fed, on the grain it takes to raise a beef cow to slaughtering size? You know how much corn could be grown with the water it takes to raise a cow to adulthood?

3. Until it became a "thing NGO's and other furriners who don't understand our culture want to take away from us" because of these big public mega-events, eating dog meat was probably on its way to being a generational thing, like bbundaegi, which is slowly fading out of favor with the younguns - mostly old people, in mostly old neighborhoods, eat dog meat, particularly since it was pushed to the margins in '88 and (especially these days) young people mostly think of dogs only as pets. My wife is one of that generation: she, and people younger than her, are generally more interested to be seen in the newest belgian waffle, hand-drip coffee, gourmet hamburger, snazzy tapas place, than sitting on the floor in a dirty old neighborhood, in a shop in a back alley with fake wood floors and teal tables, surrounded by old men eating dog.

Even though dog consumption has increased since the '88 Olympics, I'd be interested to know how many of the people under 35 who eat dog, do it only with other people under age 35 -- I'd wager that the overwhelming majority of young people eating dog are doing it because they've been brought along by someone of that older generation.

4. Me, I'm torn, really torn, about dog meat. While I was traveling in China, I saw a dog market that made me sad enough that I won't eat more dog myself, and have eaten much less of other large animals, too. My wife wouldn't let me eat dog, anyway - not while she's around - because she's an avid dog-lover.

I'm mostly frustrated by that catch-22 I mentioned in "my own thoughts, part 1" -- the industry's sketchy because it's unregulated, and it's unregulated because trying to make it legal is politically risky, and any attempt to bring the industry above board and clean it up is going to result in loud movements to ban it entirely instead, attracting negative attention.

They're different in many ways, but the prostitution industry suffers the same dilemma - in both cases, leaders don't have either the will or the resources to eliminate the industry entirely, but neither do they have the courage to own up to its existence, and try to bring it above board, so it hangs around on the margins, where people who beat dogs to death can get away with it, and where gangsters who do all kinds of horrible human trafficky things to women, can get away with that.  

For the record, I think it's a much higher priority to clean up the prostitution industry than the dog meat industry, but until Korea's leadership is willing to either snuff the dog trade out, or legislate it appropriately, it will continue to exist in this shadowy area, until the generation that consumes most dog meat dies of old age, and it becomes impossible to find, not because international groups have foisted imperial values on innocent Koreans, but because those who prepare it, and those who eat it, have died of old age, and the young ones who would take it up, are interested rather in belgian waffles, hand drip coffees, and Indonesian, Thai, Swedish, Middle-Eastern, or whatever other kind of food has become the newest way to show off one's sophistication.


The Late Picks said...

PETA are extremists that take everything to far.

They campaigned against the use of Kangaroo skin in football boots. That was a real shame as that had the potential to make Kangaroos worth something as opposed to just being a burden to farmers. Since all Kangaroos do is cost farmers money they are incentivized to kill them all. Whereas if they were worth money then it would be in the farmers interest to keep it sustainable.

Same here with the dog meat, by pushing for a total ban there preventing any actual improvement.

I agree with the Korean in regards to the pet issue. In a 100 years keeping an animal for your own amusement (which is what a pet really is) will probably be seen as barbaric too.

Charles Montgomery said...

If you buy that "Pulp Fiction" BS?

You should NEVER eat fish...

Anonymous said...

Interesting article Roboseyo. Although, as a dog lover, dog eating doesn't sit right with me, I did try the dog soup when I was in Korea. Aside from the guilt, I didn't think it was very nice!
Never-the-less I didn't feel it was right to preach on which animals should and shouldn't be eaten.
However, I've since come across another anti-canine eating argument. Apparently, the eating of carniverous animals has certain negative health implications which are not found in vegetarian stock. This could be an intersesting avenue to explore in the argument?


Good post, Rob. One area that I'd like to see you explore a bit more is which breeds might actually be tastier. I'm guessing the large breeds would be better, because you could eat them younger for tenderness and still get a significant amount of meat.

Given that Americans spend a bajillion dollars a year on pets (which, let's face it, is barbarous given the number of humans dying every year of malnutrition), I have always argued that the consumption of all cats and dogs in America would not only give us more available funds to redirect to our dying fellow humans (because, of course, the only reason they're dying is because there isn't enough available money to pay for feeding them. of course), but it would also provide us with a delectable new source of protein.

Of course, we could always eat the PETAs, but I think that might be illegal.

Sidney said...

I'm a vegetarian, so REALLY agree with your 2nd point. When my omnivore friends complain about dog meat in anyway, I remind them that I think the same thing about all of the meat they eat. Usually that makes them think twice about what they just said.

Honestly, I'm not against eating meat; I wish people would eat less of it so we could grow more produce, but that's not the point here! What I mean is, I'm not against eating dog, either. In theory, anyway. Awful conditions for the dogs and the way they may or may not be killed is what makes it really sad.

Kya said...

Even though I don't like the idea of eating dog, I couldn't object to it if it wasn't for the fact that in Korea dogs are often slowly tortured to death in order to supposedly increase the stamina-building qualities of their meat. They hang the dogs up and beat them repeatedly, and take a blow torch to them or electrocute them to finish them off. Considering this practice, I find it perplexing that anybody can still be in support of dog meat in Korea.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting read. To disclose, I am a vegetarian, but I wouldn't be as dogmatic to say that a life is a life is a life. I do think there is a bit of a hiearchy of life, and in that vein, if I were to have to start eating meat again, I would go for insects and small fish before going straight to a cow, but I digress. #1 is also the most important point for me in the dog meat debate. My biggest problem from a rights perspective is how dogs are killed (and if I hear one more person say smuggly 'you are a confused Westerner. The dogs are slaughtered with the greatest care.' I'm going to scream. Thankfully it is always said with a roomful of Korean guys, including sometimes my husband, who then share their experiences of being forced to beat dogs to death by their seniors/grandfather etc.). And then from a health standpoint, I also worry about how the slaughter and living conditions of dogs affects the people who consume the meat.

I'm a realist. People are going to eat meat. But if they are going to eat meat, then they need to treat the animals well when they are alive and when they are dead (this includes the horrific conditions, as you mentioned, that factory farm pigs, chickens, cows, etc. experience).

Roboseyo said...

For the record, Ms. Lee, Kya, Sidney and everyone else, the idea of slowly beating a dog to death to get its adrenaline going, is the thing I find most objectionable about dog meat.

People keep pigs as pets, and in some places, dogs are a terrifying, feral pack animal that will swarm you and eat you alive... for the rest, meat is meat is meat.

T.K. (Ask a Korean!) said...

Slaughtering a dog by beating or hanging in Korea is more regulated than before. Thanks to stronger animal protection laws, recently there have been several reported instances in which people who were engaged in such method of slaughter have been criminally prosecuted.

But one of Robo's points deserves amplification here: The fact that the brutal slaughtering method and inhumane conditions of meat dog-raising continue to be under-regulated is ENTIRELY, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT the fault of the crazed anti-dog meat people. There have been several governmental attempts at regulating the dog meat industry, to make the dogs' living conditions more hygienic and their slaughter more merciful. But each attempt was shut down, not because the oh-so-powerful dog meat lobby blocked such attempt -- such lobby does not exist, by the way, as dog meat ranchers are poor farmers who have no meaningful political presence -- but because the anti-dog meat people were so concerned about "legalizing" dog meat.

Don't-Ask-a-Korean said...

@Roboseyo -
Thanks for an interesting read.
I think you misunderstood what Mr. Bant meant by a culture evolving.
I think he meant that some Western cultures ate dog in the past but "evolved" in their habits and realized that dogs are companions and helpers to Man, not food.

Here's Mr Ann's (a.k.a dr dog meat) take on dog meat:

- Dog's penis protects woman's reproductive organs and remedies man's impotency,
- Dog's heart remedies depression, nosebleed,
- Dog's skeleton supports woman's ability to produce offspring,
- Dog's liver is the remedy if a crazy dog bites you,

There are other utterly insane statements on the mythical health benefits a dog carcass will give you, but above examples should give you a glimpse into what he and others would like you to believe in order to increase the sales.
In my opinion the medicinal benefits mentioned above deserve nothing but contempt and I see nothing wrong in using, to use your phrasing "cheap shots" when it comes to the lies that surround the cruel industry.

@The Korean - I know you're an avid dog eater so I'm not surprised to see you saying aye for legalizing the industry. I'm one of those "crazed anti-dog meat people" you mention also Korean by the way, but aside from the ad hominem attacks let me voice my opinion.

Legalizing the industry won't improve anything but increase in sales. It means more competitors, smaller margins. Which will lead to traders wanting to stand out from the crowd. We can expect longer meat tendering sessions done behind closed doors to "improve" it.
Do you think the government will set aside abundant resources to make sure the farmers and butchers follow the regulations? So far animal welfare laws have proved to be nothing but just paperwork. It recently meant something only because a growing number of citizens (such as the crazed anti-dog meat people) recognize animal abuse as being horrible and striving to end it.

You mention merciful killings. That's only a part of the story. For example, you know farmed dogs aren't given any water? It's claimed water decreases the meat quality. Crammed inside tiny wire cages, exposed to the weather elements, they aren't given any water even when scorching summer hits Korea. More, dogs are fed with rotten food waste boiled in water.Imagine spicy & salty food combined with no water plus the scorching sun. They can't sit or lie down comfortably due to the wired floor. Slaughtering day they are forced out of their cages crammed inside even tinier ones for transportation to the market. Killing by hanging is a common method. It takes 2-3 minutes for the dogs to die and the rope is free. More competitors on the market will not render (pricey) merciful killings. It's the whole industry, no matter how you turn it, and what it represents; deliberate torture and ignorance.

Smaller margin means the dogs won't benefit all the glory you mention (and as if bigger margins would benefit the dogs in the first place?). Don't be fooled by the idea that a legalization will lead to free-range dogs running around in green pastures, fed with nutrient-rich dog-food and where they have access to clean water, and instant killing will be guaranteed by using cattle guns. Let me ask, what do you know about the regulated cattle and dairy industry?
Do you understand why we don't want a legalization?

Farmers are far from poor. The food waste fed to the dogs is more or less gratis. Antibiotics which they use in large quantities are bought at very cheap price. Vaccination - never heard of so goes for any medical attention. Stolen dogs or pets - just an extra bonus. And run a tiny puppy mill in one or two of the cages and the meat supply could go on indefinitely.

PS: I want to add this to all of you who want to try the dog meat for any reason – Please don't do it. Don't support the deliberate animal cruelty the dog meat industry represents.

Stafford said...

Giraffe - now there's a dish I would eat.

Anonymous said...

Interesting- well written.
Agreed with many points, in particular the global costs of growing animals to eat stuff.

It is hard to debate issues that come to nestle under the "cultural wing".

Probably best if we all don't talk about this one and let it fade away.


Don't-Ask-a-Korean said...

@Josh - 30% of all sold dog meat in Korea come from stolen or abandoned pets. And at least 30% of all dog meat sold are of Chinese origin = all "pet dogs", purebreds.

More, for meat the larger yellow or white colored dogs are preferable but smaller dogs like Shih Tzu don't escape that easily from the pot - they're used to produce Dog Tonic which supposedly brings benefits your health.

Mostly in the rural areas, it's not uncommon to see people keep large dogs to guard their homes. When they want to get rid of it, they either sell it to the dog trader or choose to kill and eat it themselves. So much for showing gratitude towards the animal that guarded their homes.

Of course, dog traders are notoriously known for stealing the animals as well. It's a dirty business that involves cruelty, theft and lies.

Search the Youtube for dog meat transport, dog farms, dog slaughter in Korea and you'll find out what the pro-dog eaters want to legalize.

Roboseyo said...


"but aside from the ad hominem attacks let me voice my opinion."

next time, please go straight to the opinion, without starting out with ad hominem attacks, and please choose a different handle than one that is a direct attack on another commenter on my discussion boards. That's just rude. You are welcome to disrespect The Korean at his own blog, but here, you're invited to be courteous.

I don't think I misunderstood what Mr. Bant is saying: you just said the exact same thing - positioning cultures that use dogs only as pets as "evolved"... every time an arrogant westerner uses the "you have to become more like us to become an evolved/developed society" argument, you risk the same backlash in your audience as Koreans have had against those who would have them ban dog meat. Any argument that includes "and those who disagree with me are idiots/savages/barbarians" shoots itself in the foot. Choose better tactics, and you'll have a better chance at winning over your audience.

re: cheap shots: you are simply incorrect that treating those who disagree with you with contempt is an effective tactic. Unless you're interested in screeching matches rather than discussion that has a chance of changing people's minds. Which happens on the internet.

I'm not denying that there are horrible practices involved in farming dogs... my post talked about both how dogs are raised AND slaughtered. Put that straw man away please.

Describing the terrible ways dogs are raised or slaughtered doesn't change the fact the Korean is correct, that the anti-meat lobby, and the noise they make, have led the government to turn a blind eye on the industry (to avoid a PR nightmare), rather than shining a spotlight on it to clean it up... at least to the (unsatisfactory to some) standard of other animal industries. I don't think that means dogs will be free range... but it might stop them from being beaten to death. But to be clear about what's defined as a horrible practice... do you believe that all farming of animals for meat is horrible and should be banned, or are you limiting that to dog? Because if we're talking about eating meat vs. not eating meat, that's a totally different conversation, than singling out dog meat.

spammerstakeahike said...

@ Rob-o-SE-yo :

I thought the handle was funny, but sorry if I stepped on someone's toes here.

But I also note that you don't seem to find "The Korean" referring to us as a bunch of crazed people as being rude?

Nowadays, it's not all West vs Korea. I want to point out that the criticism more often comes from within the country not from abroad. And that's exactly what the Koreans, opposing the practice, have to say about the mythical benefits the dog meat supposedly bring.

I already wrote what I think will happen if the dog meat industry reaches legal status. I've voiced my doubts why the cruelty won't lessen and shouting legalization is often an easy way for us to turn a blind eye to the cruelty - cruelty cannot exist if the industry is legalized right?

I wasn't saying you denied anything. I wrote most of the text addressed to The Korean.

I also believe the whole meat industry must go away. Which of course is an utopia.. but with dog meat, we're getting close.

Roboseyo said...

The Korean was referring to a group... did you feel singled out?

You took digs at a specific commenter on my boards. That IS different.

"Nowadays, it's not all West vs Korea."

It doesn't have to be. You're still shooting yourself in the foot if you frame your discussion as "the civilized vs. the savages" or "the enlightened vs. the fools" even if you come from the same culture. Because people don't like being talked down to.

The fact that you would ban all meat farming, and the only reason you're here opposing dog farming is because you think a complete ban on dog farming might be achievable, changes the way I approach a discussion with you: basically, because I don't think I'm going to change your mind, I hardly see it worth my time discussing it with you at all.

Myself... I'm sympathetic to both sides, but don't consider it a discussion when there's no chance someone will change their mind. Which means I'm interested in witnessing these discussions, but not so much in taking part in them.

Send me an e-mail, and you can read the article I mentioned at the beginning. It might be interesting to you. Roboseyo, gmail.

Nelsons Päron said...

@Roboseyo -

Oh..I am part of that group, and no, it doesn't lift my spirits when someone calls me crazy. If someone would say Koreans are crazy, I'd feel singled out too. Wouldn't you?
But I fully understand your reaction since TK is a friend and I'm just another faceless internet voice.

I understand and agree with your point, being that a calm discussion with good arguments would be the optimal way to convince people from eating dogs. And we use that approach 99 times out of 100.

Most people against the dog meat industry are very patient and strive to have a sane discussion with people. On the other hand, many pro-dog eaters did harrass a lot of people across the boards, over the phone etc when the Moran Dog Meat Festival was canceled some while ago. That's just one example.

Sometimes the harsh comments and yells must be met with some harshness too, not simply taking it all in and turn your other cheek to them. If you hear any harsh comments from anti dog-meat people, you might want to think why they're upset.

I'm sorry the harshness came out on your blog's comment section.

Well, sorry to hear you don't think it's worth wasting your time continuing this discussion, but thanks for not censoring my posts.

Have a great Sunday

Roboseyo said...


Maybe somebody else will come by to argue with you... I'd be happy if somebody did - I'm not the person to do it because I'm quite sympathetic to many of the points you make. But I'm also sympathetic to points made by the other side. :)

Anon42 said...

Try this on for size.

Outlaw animal cruelty (of all kinds). Start doling out prison sentences for the woman that beats her cat or the guy in the back room that beats a dog.

Regulate the process and the product. It's done for virtually all other meat products, to some degree of success.

Clear the air of this perceived stigma of sexual health. Whatever you may think of Viagra, it's been shown to work in a double-blind test. At best, it's a placebo effect; at worst, it's bunk hyped by anonymous third-parties.

Make dog meat a legitimate product one can purchase anywhere, not just a back alley first constructed circa 1980-something.

This is, of course, a pipe dream - and until it reaches that point it's just endless posturing and bickering about debate tactics.

Dave Russell said...

Some Koreans may say eating dogmeat is 'Korean Culture'. May be so. But it is not 'world culture'. Very few societies in the world view eating dogs as normal. And in many of those places, eating dogmeat it illegal. In a country where recently about 1000000 pigs were buried alive, animal welfare is pretty obviously still at the bottom of the list of priorities - at least compared to other modern developed countries amongst which South Korea purports to be.

The point mentioned earlier about eating pigs, cows, etc being the same as eating dogs is a fair comment - on the surface. And there are good arguments for not eating these animals also. But this misses the point with the issues of dogmeat. Dogs living with man is a universal phenomena and not solely a 'western' idea. I cannot think of one society or culture where dogs are not kept as companions or used as working animals; korea included. The problem in Korea is that Korean people have compartmentalized dogs into 'food dogs' and 'pet dogs'. Biologically and ecologically there is no difference; a dog is a dog is a dog. When a mixed breed 'noronhee' (typical food dog) meets an poodle -they will interact like dogs. No surprise there then.

Another thing that makes dogs special is the length of time they have lived with man. Most other domesticated animals became so around 12000 years ago onwards and were forced to do so; dogs at least 35000 years ago and maybe as much as 100000 years ago and CHOSE to do so. Either way, this helps to explain some real and incredible facts. Dogs can react to/read human actions and expressions more so than any other animal including our closet living relative chimpanzees. No other domestic animal can do this and this explains why horses, goats, sheep, cows or chickens are NOT universally kept as pets - but dogs are. Through natural selection (at first) and later human selection/breeding dogs have learnt to read humans and act accordingly with human responses and emotions.
I think this is thee important and thee underlooked aspect when looking at the dogmeat 'industry'. And even if the dogmeat industry became super-regulated and controlled- in Korea, this may not account for much (see '1000000 pigs' part earlier).

If Korea can't give dogs, the animal with a longer and more intimate connections to humans than any other, some degree of dignified respect and universally applied welfare, then what hope is there for pigs, cows, chickens and other so called 'food animals'

T.K. (Ask a Korean!) said...

Dogs living with man is a universal phenomena and not solely a 'western' idea.

This should be Exhibit A of the towering arrogance of anti-dog meat advocates. Apparently, the activity engaged by vast majority of societies are to be considered “world culture” that holds “universal” value. By the same token, there is almost no human society in which women hold an equal social station as men. Is sexism then a “world culture”, to be promoted and encouraged in pockets of the world in which gender equality is pursued?

If you like history, let’s look at history. The first dogs were domesticated in southern China, TO BE EATEN. Though dogs proved themselves to be useful otherwise, the original purpose of dogs persisted in China and, by extension, Asia -- therefore, the Chinese emperor kept pet dogs, while ordinary Chinese people continued to eat dogs.

This ridiculous concern with animal welfare in the West has led our civilization to the point where dogs are more valued than humans. Michael Vick got 23 months in prison for killing dogs, while Donte Stallworth got one month in prison for killing a person. If you are a policeman in Chicago, you are better off accidentally shooting a black man than a dog. I am very happy that animal welfare is a low priority in Korea -- humans should always come first.

ZenKimchi said...

Hal Herzog's "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat" goes truly deeply and elegantly into this subject.

Charles said...

generally, people eat what is local. Whether it's a (wild) squirrel, pheasant, or bass, or (domesticated) cow, sheep or do, it's what's for dinner. For example, though not native to the USA, you can get an Oryx steak in New Mexico because the introduction of the animal was more successful than planned. Now the state is trying to figure out how to manage the herd without upsetting an out of balance ecosystem.
The improvements in transportation and communication have enable people from around the world to contact, experience and influence each other. It is the struggle for influence that may result in disagreement/conflict.
Whether one animal is okay to eat but not the other is hard to justify. Similarly, to argue what is a humane way to kill an animal is foolish. Dead is dead.

Roboseyo said...

Playing the devil's advocate, and riffing on The Korean's point...

even if dogs DO have a longer history than other animals, and a closer bond with humans (which is arguable: we humans like to anthropomorphize animals and assume that a dog's facial expressions mean "i'm sad or i sympathise" when they might well simply mean "evolution has programmed me that this expression increases my chance of getting food as a reward")

even if that longer history DOES make them closer to humans than other animals... how does it follow that we therefore necessarily shouldn't eat them? We could use those same arguments to justify why dogs should be humans' favorite dish: Doesn't eating them bring their service to humans full circle, and allow them to help humans not just during their lives, but in their deaths? What greater way to honor humans' greatest companion, then to allow them to also nourish our bodies? Christians symbolically eat Jesus' body and blood to signify HIS importance to their lives.

SemperFiWM said...

LOL!!! I love the comments... especially those from the "educated", "cultured" folks. As a Korean/American who has grown up all over the world (father and myself in military service), to me food is food and the food of that particular place is their food. There are many reasons why there are differences in cultural food - environmental, natural catastrophic events, war, and just human nature (changing tastes, ruining the environment, etc.). YOU don't have to eat it.

I laugh (and cry) because if you think cruelty doesn't happen everywhere, then you are being very ignorant. A farmer/country person has a different mindset about animals than a city person. If anyone has ever visited a high producing U.S. farm that raises food for profit, where everything is supposedly very regulated, they would never eat meat and maybe anything again.

Here is a GREAT example! Ever go to KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken)? Tyson sells them their chicken. I have friends that live right next to a farm and are friends with the owners - It is true. This is exactly what it looks like and what they do. Thousands and thousands, scooped up like dirt, thrown around, etc. Hard to see and know about but I haven't stopped eating chicken. Cows, sheep, goats are hung and cut down the middle or throat slashed and bled out.

Even here in the USA, farmers and many country people feel different about animals - for most of them they are just animals. Why do many of them just dump dogs and cats or put them in sacks and drown them? I have American farmer/country relatives that do this to this day! Pisses me off but there is no changing how they were raised, what they believe, and how they live. They also hunt/fish for all of their food and they raise all of their food to kill. They treat their dogs/cats as expendable. Especially if money is running low and they need to buy something that month. Like ammo or a new rifle. Who am I to say they are dumber or less cultured than me? I just wish they would go ahead and eat the dogs/cats like all of the other animals. That way those that are dumped aren't run over, die from starvation or disease, make puppy/kitty farms, or fill our animal shelters to the hilt. And for something to provide life to something else - why that should be the greatest thing/sacrifice ever!!!

Now, Peru eats guinea pigs and just like partridge, I don't see how they have enough meat! LOL!!!

SemperFiWM said...

Oh, and I have a distaste for Nutria from Louisiana although it is understandable why it became a food staple. It was brought to the states to provide a beaver-like pelt except Nutria are humongous rats and their pelt is subpar. Now they have overrun the state, Texas, and eventually the whole country.

If you go right across the border to Mexico, you will be in very small company if you see a dog anywhere. If you do, they are more than likely on the roof of a house - yup, a slanted roof, holding on for dear-life like a mountain goat. Why? Because people are hungry and dogs have meat.

My father loves pig brains - he is a hillbilly through and through. Now if that isn't disgusting then nothing is - LOL!!!

JIW said...

Good post Rob and I put in a recent post on my blog: