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Changing the fate of ‘dog meat’ Jindos
About 60 Jindos get socialization training to build trust ahead of adoption
Published : Oct 26, 2021 - 13:42
Updated : Oct 27, 2021 - 14:32
Two Jindo dogs refuse to come out of their travel crate. (Shin Ji-hye/The Korea Herald)
GYEONGJU, North Gyeongsang Province -- Until a few weeks ago, they were eating food waste in small, dirty cages, helplessly watching their friends die. The 65 Jindo dogs were destined to die as Boknal approached. Those are the three hottest days of summer, during which South Koreans typically eat ginseng chicken soup or dog soup, although the latter is becoming rarer.

But the dogs survived because nearby residents of Jindo County, South Jeolla Province, reported the situation to the authorities and animal rights groups, saying it was too painful to stand by and listen to the screams as the dogs were slaughtered.

Jindo dogs rescued from a dog meat farm play at a training center in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. (Shin Ji-hye/The Korea Herald)
“When we arrived at the farm with another animal rights group, LIFE, only dogs remained as the owner was arrested by the police for animal abuse a day earlier,” said Kim Na-ra, a campaign manager with the Korean office of the Washington-based nonprofit organization Humane Society International.

The two civic groups rescued the 65 Jindo dogs last month and sent 55 to a dog training center, Han’s Care School Coop in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. The others -- mostly pregnant dogs -- went to a private shelter.

At the training center, the dogs get socialization training so they can eventually be adopted.

“Here, they learn how to socialize with other dogs and people. To be adopted, they must have no resistance to people. They should be able to be touched, bathed and walked by people,” said Han Kook-il, CEO of Han’s Care School.

When The Korea Herald visited the training center, around 20 dogs were playing outside with trainers. They seemed friendly, approaching the staff for snacks and petting.

“Dogs raised by humans can get along with people again when their trauma is overcome,” Han said of the dogs playing. Most of them appeared to have been raised in human families but somehow ended up at the dog farm.

Jindo dogs rescued from a dog meat farm play at a training center in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. (Shin Ji-hye/The Korea Herald)
But for about 30 of the dogs, he said, socialization would be much harder.

Those dogs had never lived with human families and knew only abuse and neglect. Their friends were killed in front of them, usually by electric skewers.

“They need some more time to build intimacy with people. Some are so scared of people that they run away or bite when people try to approach,” Han said.

He allowed the reporter to meet three of those dogs. They looked scared and wouldn’t come out when a staff member opened their travel crates. “Coming out of the cages means death to them.”

When they are mentally and physically ready, they will find new owners -- mostly in the US and Canada.

Kim said it is pretty easy to find new owners in the US, but never in Korea.

Koreans, who mostly live in apartment buildings, consider Jindos too big and prefer small breeds such as poodles, bichon frises or Malteses.

“They also shun bringing home dogs from shelters. They like to get them from pet shops,” Kim said.

The Jindo is an indigenous Korean dog breed designated as Natural Monument No. 53. Jindo dogs have been kept for hunting and security in Korea.

About 4,000 dogs are designated as Natural Monument No. 53. Jindo-gun and the Cultural Heritage Administration protect 6,000 more dogs as Natural Monument reserve resources.

Of the 65 rescued dogs, seven are microchipped, registered Jindos born on the island. Of those, four are registered as Natural Monuments and seven are reserves. The rest of the dogs are Jindo mixes.

Eating dogs, which is still legal in the nation, has long faced pushback from some politicians, civic groups and the public. Last month, President Moon Jae-in asked, “Isn’t it time to carefully review a ban on dogs as food?”

According to a recent survey of 2,000 adults in 17 cities nationwide, carried out by the private animal welfare research institute Aware, nearly 8 out of 10 respondents, or 78.1 percent, were in favor of banning the slaughter and sale of dogs and cats for food, with 48.9 percent strongly in favor.

Change may be slow because some dog meat eaters and sellers oppose a ban. They say opponents of eating dogs are hypocrites because other animals such as cows, pigs and chickens are also consumed.

Jindo dogs are caged at a dog meat farm before being rescued by animal rights groups in Jindo County, South Jeolla Province. (Han’s Care School Coop)
But eating dogs in Korea has another aspect.

Because dogs are not classified as livestock in Korea, there are no legal guidelines for breeding, slaughter methods or hygiene management.

“(Because of the lack of guidelines), they were beaten to death for good meat quality in the past. Now they are stabbed to death with an electric skewer because the method has been criticized for being too cruel. Still, the slaughtering process is not properly managed so many of them are killed painfully,” Han said.

“Dog soup can also be unhealthy for humans,” he said. “You don’t know if the meat is safe. Dogs may have eaten food waste or excessive antibiotics.”

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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