The Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA), in coordination with its national and international affiliates, has helped save 149 dogs from being slaughtered for meat from a farm in Yesan, South Korea.
The dogs will be flown into Logan Airport in Boston on March 29 where they will then be distributed to shelters throughout the Humane Society of the United States’ network. Eight of the dogs will be taken to the RISPCA shelter in Middletown.
“Our first priority is always Rhode Island,” said RISPCA spokesman Eric St. Peter. However with no current overpopulation problem in the nonprofit’s Potter League for Animals shelter in Middletown, St. Peter said the organization could shift its focus to a more widespread vantage point and help out. “We decided we had room to help out on a national level and an international level,” St. Peter said.
The dogs on the farm in South Korea were destined to be butchered and consumed by South Korean individuals, many of whom still believe in mythical healing properties of dog meat soup (called boshingtang). The belief is that eating the soup during the Bok-Nal festival, held on the three hottest days of the year of the summer, will help lower the body’s temperature and keep them from overheating. More than 1 million dogs are killed annually for this practice, per the RISPCA.
According to the RISPCA, consuming dog meat is rapidly falling out of favor in South Korea, especially with younger individuals. Increasing efforts of animal rights advocacy groups have enhanced awareness about the practice, which often involves the cruel containment and slaughter of dogs for their meat – as the belief also maintains that the more adrenaline released during the death means a more potently powerful product.
“The slaughtering of animals, whatever animal it may be, is prevalent throughout the world. However, it's the manner in that they're slaughtered which is distressing,” St. Peter said. “They’re usually electrocuted or hung while they're slaughtered.”
While the practice is repulsive to a majority of Americans, the Humane Society International must, at the same time, grapple with both the reality that consuming dog meat is not against the law in South Korea and that the farmers who rely on raising dogs for slaughter are often doing so out of financial necessity and are pressured by consumer demands to do so.
As a result, the Humane Society works out agreements to buy the dogs from the farmers and then provide them with training to grow other profitable crops, such as mushrooms and blueberries, so that they may learn to grow sustainable crops that don’t violate the Humane Society’s pillars of belief.
“They seem to be willing to do that,” St. Peter said.
Of the eight dogs that will wind up in Rhode Island, six of them are Korean Jindo puppies. The other two are Labrador-hound mixes (one a year old and the other five months old). St. Peter said the age of the dogs should help ensure that they are adopted and given proper homes.
“These are young dogs,” he said. “We're taking applications now online. People can fill them out prior to the dogs being available and we will decide the best fit for each individual dog based on behavioral assessments and contact the person who is the best match for each dog.”