Giny Woo’s speech at The Global Rally to End China’s Dog and Cat Meat Trade by Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project
This is speech I gave at the The Global Rally to End China’s Dog and Cat Meat Trade organized by Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project on February 19, 2015 (Chinese New Year’s Day) at the Union Square, San Francisco.
South Korea is the World’s 14th largest economy and the home of global brands such as Samsung, Hyundai, Kia, LG, SK, and Daewoo, yet this is also a country where an estimated 2.5 million dogs and thousands of cats are slaughtered and eaten as so-called “health food” each year. Even though Korea has established an Animal Protection Law, these dogs and cats in the meat industry are excluded from its protection. The dogs bred on farms are forced to endure deprivation and torment from the moment they are born until the day they are slaughtered in the most horrific ways. They are beaten, hung, electrocuted, burned and boiled often while they are still alive and often in front of other live dogs.
Corruption is part of the industry: a dog farmer was once granted a government contract to operate an animal shelter, some shelter operators have sold the dogs in their care to the dog meat restaurants, and other shelter operators have even killed and eaten the dogs themselves. These are the kinds of reports coming out of Korea.
Dog eaters and the dog meat industry want the government to legalize dog meat, but animal rights activists are fighting to block this move, arguing that legalization will cause even more suffering to more dogs. While the legalization issue is stuck in a stalemate, millions of dogs are living a nightmare every day and thousands of lives are being extinguished.
Not all Koreans eat dogs and more and more people are turning against it. The figures on the number of Koreans who have tried dog meat vary from 30% to 60%. Only a small percentage of them eat it regularly. However, with Korea’s large population, the number of dogs killed amounts to millions each year.
There is a profound indifference by Koreans towards the unimaginable suffering of these dogs. It is a country that in the past put the economy first over moral considerations. So the country is still behind the developed world with regard to animal welfare issues. The majority of citizens in Korea do nothing to end the torture and slaughter of dogs. They don’t like to impose on other people’s choices. And the Korean government basically avoids the dog meat issue and keeps it in a legal blind spot to protect the industry.
This issue is personal for me, and not only because it concerns my home country. I’d like to tell you a story of my own experiences when I was living in Korea.
I have a memory from childhood about our family dog that still haunts me to this day. When I was growing up in Korea, we had a small dog. Since we lived in a multi-family housing without a fenced yard like many houses in Korea, our dog would often roam around the neighborhood, but he always came home. One day, however, he didn’t return.
It might have been several days later, I heard the screaming of a dog outside my window and saw several men in the farm field across from our house. They were burning a dog. I still don’t know if that was our dog they were burning, but I have always felt guilty about not being able to protect him from whatever happened to him. It is very likely that he was grabbed off the street and met the same fate as that poor dog in the field.
That was almost 40 years ago. But today, nothing has changed. Dogs in Korea are still grabbed off the street and killed. They are still forced to endure lives of misery, terror and torture on farms or totally alone in backyards.
When I became aware that there are activist organizations in Korea campaigning against the dog meat trade, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who was upset about this issue, and this gave me the courage I needed to do something about it. So I started a campaign to help fight this cruel industry—an industry of shame—in my home country. That was three and a half years ago.
As I searched for stories to share with the world about these dogs, I saw the most horrific, frightening and heartbreaking images that I have ever seen before and I could not get them out of my head. I felt tremendous sadness and anguish. And I was tormented by this terrible injustice against the defenseless animals that I love so much and struggled with the question, “how can the Koreans allow this to happen? How can the world allow this to happen?”
Knowing what these dogs are forced to endure, I had to tell their story to the world. I could not let them be forgotten not even for one day.
So I have been working day and night trying to do anything and everything that I can to create more public awareness of these dogs, and to find ways to motivate people to take action to put pressure on the Korean government.
Through social media and campaign actions on the streets of San Francisco and Jacksonville, Florida’s most heavily visited areas, my group is working hard to educate as many people as we can and ask them to join us in this fight.
While it is impossible to change the attitude of a whole nation like Korea overnight, it is possible to pressure the Korean government to make changes. It is never too late to correct a mistake. Korea must change now to end this shameful violence towards companion animals. Only then will it progress toward having a more compassionate and ethical society and be the best that it can be.
Our fight is also important because it can have an impact on other injustices, such as the dog meat trade in China. In the same way, stopping China’s dog meat trade will have a big impact on stopping Korea’s trade. So it is hoped that everyone can work together as a united front against dog meat trade everywhere.
And everyone really can help create change. When each of us uses our ability and rights to speak out on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves, we can change a nation and the world.
Korea’s hosting of the 2018 Winter Olympics offers an opportunity to shine an international light on this deplorable practice and bring us one step closer to ending it. To do so, we must continue to exert pressure on the Korean government through phone calls and letters to the Korean President; Korean Embassies worldwide; and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who is himself Korean, urging them to stop the slaughter immediately.
There are so many ways you can help fight this cruel industry. We work very hard to make it easy for you to take action. All we ask for is your compassion and a little of your time. We need your help. The dogs of Korea need your help. So please, join me and our dedicated group of volunteers; all the information you need is on our homepage, Koreandogs.org. Thank you!