Humane Society International
In February this year Humane Society International (HSI) invited me to attend the closing down of a dog meat farm on the outskirts of Seoul in South Korea. This was the 18th farm that HSI has managed to negotiate the closure of and it is their intention to continue to close more farms in the future. Their ultimate mission is to bring an end to this incredibly cruel and exploitative industry. I say negotiate as these closures are business deals. The owners agree to relinquish the dogs (their commodities) on the basis that HSI help them to set up alternative, humane businesses. HSI also make certain that contracts are signed to ensure that owners agree never to farm dogs or other animals again in the future and these agreements are legally binding, which ensures that they are adhered to.
HSI is a leading force for animal protection. Alongside their critical work to end factory farming of animals, they have a very active disaster relief response team and work around the globe to promote the human-animal bond and confront animal cruelty in all its forms including animal testing, trophy hunting and fur farming.
We love everything HSI stand for and are incredibly proud to have been able to help some of their admirable work. We have already supported the closure of two dog meat farms and this closure of farm number 18 is the third. In total we have contributed to the rescue of almost 400 dogs and we are sure this is only the beginning of a longstanding relationship.
Dog meat farm number 18…
This particular farm closure resulted in nearly 200 dogs and puppies being saved from certain death with most of them successfully relocated to the USA & Canada during the week long operation. Some heavily pregnant dogs and new mums with small pups stayed behind in safe boarding in South Korea until the pups are old enough to make the long flight. In the weeks leading up to the closure the dogs were taken care of by HSI/Korea representatives on the ground and much work was done to ensure they were vaccinated and fit enough to travel.
I was incredibly impressed with the professionalism of the entire operation and the level of expertise and compassion of the HSI team was nothing short of astounding. Quite a few of the rescue team came directly from the tragic earthquake Turkey had recently, they were helping rescue dogs and cats on the streets who had become separated from their owners. It was an honour and a pleasure to be a part of this operation and spend time with the inspiring team, which included the president of HSI Jeffrey Flocken.
Removing almost 200 dogs from their cramped, filthy and completely inadequate cages, where they had spent their entire lives, was a task I could not get my head around. Especially on the first day of my arrival at the farm when it was clear to see that most of the dogs display fear-based aggression and were petrified as they didn’t understand what was going on around them.
They had obviously witnessed the horrors of many of their fellow residents being slaughtered over the years and I couldn’t help wondering if they were contemplating what these new group of humans had in store for them now. I just wish we could have reassured them we were there to rescue them and ultimately save their lives.
Many of the dogs were born in the cages they lived in and had never been outside of them so watching the dogs being removed from cages all around them, hour after hour and day after day must have been terrifying. Their cages were all they knew and to them, they were their safe place. Although in real terms they were hell holes. Note that the straw in the cages above was an addition made by HSI during the preparation weeks. before there was no bedding at all. The cages were never cleaned so they were lying on their own impacted faeces and the smell in the air took your breath away. My visit was in winter so it was just above freezing in the mornings and rose to 10 degrees Celsius in the day, you can imagine how bad the smell and conditions must have been in the summer months…
Chickadee is a particular dog I had a huge soft spot for. She looked so very, very sad in her cage. I never witnessed this personally but I believe she had puppies that had to be taken away from her as she was attacking them when they went near her dry food. The good and subsequent news is that I have since heard she is starting to flourish in rehab in the US and is making good progress.
Rescue & relocation begins…
On the Job
Obviously only experienced HSI dog handlers were hands on with the actual removal of the dogs from the cages and the rest of us played support roles such as feeding and watering the dogs, talking to them and trying to calm them down. There were 25 of us in the rescue team and our operation included removing the dogs from the cages, transferring them to their individual travel crates and loading them onto trucks that transported them to the airport where they were eventually loaded onto three cargo planes along with key HSI staff members.
By day four we were all exhausted but equally overjoyed by the fact that we had achieved the goal of getting the dogs onto the cargo planes and on their way to their new lives filled with love, respect and freedom.
On arrival in Canada and the USA they were health checked again before being sent out to one of HSI’s care and rehabilitation centres where the process of mental and physical rehabilitation is already underway.
The puppies who were too young to travel (plus a few adults who were simply too weak) are doing well and I was assured that those left behind will eventually make their way to a new life in the US or Canada as soon as they are strong enough to travel. In the meantime this small group are being cared for at a rehabilitation facility near Seoul.
A couple of the dogs stole my heart 💓
Chickadee was one (featured above), and Huckleberry was the other…
When Huckleberry arrived in the US an animal behavioural specialist (and vets) immediately paid special attention to her. She will no doubt continue to suffer the effects of her traumatic life for a while yet and she is still very anxious and shut down. However, she is now in a loving and caring environment and feels safe. The team will continue to support her until such time as she is ready to be considered for rehoming.
Here are a few pics showing you the HSI team at work with the dogs in Canada and the US.
Toughest trip yet…
I can honestly say this was the hardest project trip I have ever done for OAT, emotionally it was very testing and I found myself in tears on more than one occasion. However, seeing the empty cages before we left and now following the recovery of these beautiful forgiving souls makes it all worthwhile. Thank you HSI for the wonderful work you do in the world of animal welfare – we are so very proud to support you. ❤️🙏
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO MAY BE INTERESTED PLEASE FIND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND VIDEOS BELOW:
- Currently it is legal to farm dogs for their meat in South Korea.
- In the 1960’s it is estimated that around 5 million dogs were on dog meat farms across the country. Today it is estimated that 1 million are left.
- HSI have rescued approx. 2,700 dogs since they started legally operating in country.
- Almost all dogs are bred and born in a cage on a dog meat farm. The only time they are removed is for slaughter.
- Dog meat is believed to have medicinal values. One belief is that dog meat actually cools the human body so during the summer months dog meat demand increases.
- Generally dog meat farmers sell dogs to traders or middle men, with an average (adult) dog being sold for around $150 – $250 (USD) depending on weight.
- The two main breed of dogs in the meat industry are ‘Tosas’ & ‘Jindo’ crosses, although all breeds of dogs can be found on dog meat farms including Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Huskies.
- HSI are currently also working on other dog meat campaigns in India, Indonesia, Vietnam & China.
- With help from supporters, HSI will continue to do their best to rescue as many dogs as possible. Please donate here if you would like to support their work.
Watch the videos below to experience some poignant moments from the rescue mission.
First here’s a short and very touching account of the trip put together by HSI…
Here Dave and Jeff Flocken help load the dogs so they can head off on the next step towards their happy forever homes…