Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. (Albert Einstein)
PUBLIC HEALTH RISKS OF DOG MEAT
Amid all of South Korea’s modernist explosions and its elite financial status in Asia, a country distinguished by its exuberantly cosmopolitan makeup, resilience, and unassailable success, it is also plagued by environmental pollution—according to the latest data from the respected Energy Information Administration, close to 11 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per capita (higher than both China and Japan), with most South Koreans now living in crowded urban areas, and severely poor sanitation. Chronic diseases, along with heart attacks and high blood pressure, account for the majority of illnesses, made worse by a health care system that focuses on treatment and not prevention.
And yet South Koreans have been fed a revoltingly falsifying palliative as espoused by South Korean professor Yong-Geun Ann, Ph.D., a self-proclaimed prophet with the cartoonish name, Dr. Dog Meat, and the leading intellectual proponent of eating dogs. Dr. Dog Meat, who is a professor at the Department of Food and Nutrition at Chungcheong College and president of The Korean Society of Food and Nutrition, as well as an advisor to the Korea Dog Farmers Association, claims dog meat as the single greatest “health food” in South Korea. He champions the myth that dog meat fights fatigue and builds stamina, and helps defend against illness.
Meat consumption is now considered the main source of protein in South Korea, and the restaurants serving dog meat are habitually packed with customers, who seem to be deniers of appalling animal suffering, as well as of the fact that they may be ingesting sickly, diseased dogs.
And while Dr. Dog Meat continues to obfuscate the horrors of the dog meat industry by a powerful means of propaganda, South Korean society sickens.
A significant study just released from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) concluded “that eating just a small, three-ounce serving of red meat per day increases risk of death by 13%…Specific causes of death corresponding with the increased risk from meat were cardiovascular disease and cancer.” The study said eating significant amounts of red meat “has been associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers in other studies,” said lead author Dr. An Pan, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH.
And in a recently published Korea Herald article, “Koreans switching back to traditional meat-free diet,” individual Koreans spoke about a return to plant-based eating, as well as a growing trend taking place among younger generations that are embracing veganism and vegetarianism. Dr. Yoon Sung-chul, a professor of internal medicine at Dankook University Medical College, South Korea, and a VegeDoctor member, says that meat-based diets are responsible for rising medical costs. VegeDoctor, which was launched in 2011 and is comprised of around 120 medical experts—medical doctors, doctors of Korean oriental medicine, and dentists—vigorously promote the robust benefits of plant-based diets and apply them to their practice. The group fervently believes that the high intake of meat and processed foods are to blame for the surge of chronic illnesses in the country. Yoon, a vegan for two years, thinks the time is right to encourage South Koreans about the importance of living meat-free. The latest statistics from the South Korea governmental National Health Insurance Corporation reveal that high blood pressure and diabetes were the most costly illnesses in the nation’s health care system in 2010 with their treatment bills reaching 2.2 trillion won ($2 billion USD) and 1 trillion won, respectively. The nation’s total medical expenses were up 10 percent from the previous year at 43.6 trillion won.
Seoul National University’s vegan student community, Kongbat, meaning, “bean field,” seeks to expand its dietary movement to environmental and animal welfare causes. “We are trying to promote the idea that everyone has the right to choose healthy foods,” Kongbat representative Kang Dae-woong, 30, said. His proposal to introduce one meat-free day per week to the Seoul Metropolitan Government is now under consideration.
“We want to raise public awareness of why we need a plant-based diet, how meat consumption is bad for our health and our environment. It’s about changing the way of thinking and building a consensus on a better, healthier lifestyle.”
THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT DOG MEAT
South Korea is a perilous, tormenting, and horrific environment for dogs, where they live in conditions evoking the vast evil of the Dark Ages. But it is also a perilous environment for humans. The abominable dog meat industry is a serious blight on the sanitation and health of South Korea. This sordid industry cries out for oversight, but the only proper oversight must be its abolition to end the inexcusable and monstrous abuse of dogs and cats and the potentially catastrophic consequences of a public health disaster.
In 2011, a groundbreaking television program aired in South Korea that was a devastating indictment of the dog meat industry. Titled “South Korea’s Dangerous Health Food—Inconvenient Truth About Dog Meat,” one segment used an undercover team of reporters that delivered 17 different dog meat samples to the Seoul Health Environmental Research Center, which tested them with shocking results.
“Among the 17 samples tested, germs were found in 7; 6 types of common germs, 4 types of colon bacillus, and 1 type of yellow staphylococcus were found above the standard expected limit.”
And the widespread abuse of antibiotics and steroids used to ward off diseases in dogs killed for meat was revealed as a grave health concern. A dog meat farmer told the interviewers that he was using the antibiotic above the allowable limit. “For a large dog weighing around 20kg, we inject around 15-20ml of antibiotic.” A veterinarian responded, “When the dogs treated with antibiotic is eaten while the medication is still effective in its system, it can have a life-threatening effect on humans.”
Several dog farmers spoke about getting dogs with skin ailments at a bargain price from dog farms. One farmer said, “Dogs that would otherwise go for about 4,500 won can be purchased at a bargain for only about 2,000 won if it has some skin problems. People would think ‘it’s disgusting’ but for us, it’s an easy fix. We can burn the skin off with blowtorch and the skin comes right off. Problem solved.”
The farmer explained that the customer would never suspect any problems, because there are no signs left of any disease once the skin is burned off. The undercover reporters actually found a dog farm that specifically buys dogs with skin problems and sells them to dog meat restaurants. One dog who had scabies still looked sickly even after his skin was burned off. But the farmer said the quality of the meat was still good. There was little fat, and “when you burn it they all becomes dark so you can’t see the skin problem.” The farmer also felt confident that he would never be caught selling sick dogs. As he spoke, he was injecting some substance into a still-living dog, who began to shake. Luckily, for the farmer, as he began the killing process, the burning of the skin not only removes the fur but also camouflages whatever illness or skin condition the dog had. And these sickly dogs are transported to restaurants and the health food stores for gaesoju. “It looks better when it’s burned off. And if you cut them into pieces even if the skin is attached there is no problem because it’s even harder to see.”
An even greater revelation, as seen with the dogs from the slaughterhouse who had canine distemper, among other illnesses, that dogs who die of contagious diseases are routinely distributed for meat.
A dog farmer claimed that, “When a whole bunch of dogs die of contagious diseases they are frozen and stored in the freezer.” He went on to say that there was no danger in eating them as long as they are medicated. “The dogs that are dead of illness are always frozen. So if there is a customer order that needs delivery next day then we soak it in running water the night before in order to thaw it. The difference in these dogs is that they are already gutted. This is the common practice of dog meat industry.”
And not only dogs who are diseased go to market but also many abandoned animal companions. Coexistence of Animal Rights on earth (CARE) wrote about a story that was widely broadcast concerning customers at a restaurant discovering much to their displeasure four metal screws and a plate attached to a bone in their bowl of bosingtang, a popular dish made with dog meat. They not only asked for their money back but also filed complaints with the City Office. The dog was once an animal companion who had undergone a leg operation, strengthened by four screws and a metal plate. And then the dog ended up at a slaughterhouse, where the metal pieces went unnoticed by the both the butcher and cook.
The undercover television team interviewed Dr. Oh, who elaborated:
“These dogs are not fed standard diet appropriate for dogs. Therefore, poisonous substances from these dogs can be contagious to humans. And when these chemicals accumulated in our body, it can cause very serious health problems. Dog meat that is contaminated with germs such as Salmonella is not safe even when you boil or steam it because the germ can survive and cause diseases to humans.”
Another physician, Dr. PD Kim, said: Moreover, currently there is no law regulating the industry of dog slaughter so the majority of dog slaughterhouses do not carry proper sanitary equipment.” The undercover team visited many slaughterhouses and consistently found that the unsanitary conditions were very serious. “A swarm of flies were flying around the dead dog lying on the dirty work table. On the wall, you can see the splattered stains of blood and bodily fluids from the slaughtering process. Dog slaughterers were not wearing proper sanitary uniforms and the dogs were being processed on the dirty cement floor.
One of the great controversies in the dog meat industry concerns the lack of regulation, including the breeding/farming, slaughtering process, and distribution of dogs. The dog meat industry operates outside of any legal regulation, tariffs, or sanitary standards. A spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries that oversees the dog industry said, “In order to resolve this issue, we have previously submitted a proposal to categorize dogs as livestock so that their slaughter can be regulated under the livestock sanitation law but there were strong debates between both sides in the congress and also among the citizens with different views on this issue.” As every animal-protection organization knows, regulation would create a more industrialized, even more factory farm-like existence for the dog industry, translating into more millions of dog deaths. With smaller farms closing down, many see this as the regrettable trend.
THE GRIM PORTENT OF CONSUMING DOGS AND CATS
As dog farms are illegal and unregistered (officially, dog meat isn’t “meat”), and often located in remote areas, precise information about this surreptitious and exorbitantly profitable industry are elusive.
In a country as small as South Korea, where real estate is at a premium, dog farms take up precious property space and make people ill with pollution. The unsanitary breeding conditions under which dogs live are forbiddingly extreme—held captive in filthy cages, eating rotting fermented human leftovers from restaurants and hospitals that carry human saliva—making them vulnerable to contagious diseases. And contrary to Dr. Dog Meat’s specious rhetoric, the physical landscape is besieged by environmental destruction from dog farms—deadly carbon dioxide emissions and water pollution from sewer discharge are merely the beginning. Dogs are not only fed contaminated and rotting food but a Korea Animal Rights Advocate’s (KARA) investigation documented dead puppies being ground up and fed to dogs in cages, which is eerily reminiscent of feeding cow remains back to cows, resulting in the spread of Mad Cow disease. One can posit that a potential global health risk like bird flu hovers in the background, portending the possibility of a global pandemic public health risk arising from the dog meat industry.
Indeed, the South Korean government’s 2011 frantic slaughtering of over 3 million cows and pigs by burying them alive for fear of disease transmission shocked the world and was a horrifying example of just such a possibility.
SLAUGHTERHOUSE DOG RESCUE
The eight dogs rescued from the slaughterhouse in a Seoul neighborhood, all diagnosed with contagious canine distemper, underwent intensive medical treatment. Two also had heartworm disease. All of them had yellow nasal discharge, little or no appetite, weakness, bloody stools or diarrhea. Some were coughing or had convulsions; a few were wracked with terrible pain. These eight gravely ill dogs—some of whom didn’t survive—were destined for restaurants where consumers dine on poisoned and contaminated meat, or, perhaps, in a ridiculous paradox, designated for health food stores, where they would be sold as dog liquor or gaesoju, a broth made of dog meat and mixed with Asian herbs.
FARMS AND MORAN MARKET RESCUES
All of the rescued dogs from the farms and Moran Market suffered from severe nutritional deficiencies and compromised immune systems. These mixed-breed dogs called “dong-gae” or dung dogs had been confined to living amid their own foul piles of excrement and decaying food from human leftovers. One of the rescued dogs tested positive for heartworm, almost all had giardia and other illnesses. One had a deep scar on her neck from being burned.
PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CHINA
In October, 2011, dogs who were stuffed into cages in a transport destined for slaughter in Beijing, China, were rescued by outraged citizens and found to be suffering not only from “dehydration, fractures, and trauma, but many were also infected with potentially lethal infectious diseases, such as canine distemper, Parvovirus, and serious illnesses caused by fungi and mites.” The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) wrote an open letter to the Chinese authorities, calling for “enforcement of health and quarantine regulations to prevent the illegal, unsafe and inhumane inter-province transport of dogs for human consumption.”
“The transport of live animals in urban and rural areas carries a high risk of spreading infectious diseases to both animals and people. It also brings great challenges to the prevention of epidemics,” said Dr. Kati Loeffler, IFAW’s Veterinarian Advisor. “It poses a direct threat to human health and public safety.” The letter asked for strengthening existing regulations to protect animal companions from the illegal meat trade (as in South Korea) and advocates for the existing legislation to protect all animals, including dogs and cats.