SAN FRANCISCO – Trembling and with their tails between their legs, the dozens of dogs rescued from a South Korean meat farm were in rough shape both physical and mentally when they arrived in Northern California this week to start new lives.
Fifty-seven dogs and puppies were rescued from a dog meat farm by Humane Society International and Change for Animals Foundation in South Korea. The dogs range from beagles, poodles, and Korean Jindos to large Tosas who have spent their entire lives in small, filthy, crowded cages exposed on the farm, waiting to be killed — often electrocuted — for their meat that is often made into stew or used in dietary supplements overseas.
South Korea — the only known Asian country to have a farming industry that raises dogs solely for meat — is now the focus of an international effort by animal-rights groups to end the business.
"They've been starved of love their whole lives, living in fear and deprivation. As soon as we opened their cage doors and they realized we weren't going to harm them, they wagged their tails and licked our faces. I felt very privileged to give these dogs the first ever cuddle and kiss of their lives," Humane Society International Asian campaign manager Lola Webber said.
The farmer involved had bred dogs for meat for 20 years and was facing criticism from family members for his participation in the trade that sees about 2 million dogs consumed in South Korea annually, said Adam Parascandola, the group's director of animal protection and crisis response.
"There's been some surveys conducted among dog meat farmers that showed that given some incentive to go into another line of work they would chose to do so.," Parascandola said.
In this case, the farmer with the 57 dogs was eager to close his farm and start a new life growing produce.
In a statement from Humane Society International, farmer Tae Hyung Lee says he believes "a lot of people want to get out of the dog-meat trade. "People don't like dog meat like in the past," he said.
In January, 23 dogs were rescued from a Seoul dog meat farmer, brought to Washington D.C., and adopted. That farmer also agreed to stop raising dogs for food and instead moved to grow blueberries. Another group of dogs could be rescued later this year, Parascandola said. His group will follow the farmers' progress to make sure they are complying.
After arriving in San Francisco earlier this week, dogs were examined and treated for any medical conditions. They will be available for adoption, possibly as early next week, at Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' facilities in San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento and the Marin Humane Society.
"Welcoming these dogs who've endured so much falls right in to our mission of saving animals, whenever called upon," Marin Humane Society Chief Executive Officer Nancy McKenney said.
The dog lift from South Korean was a "win-win situation" because the attention on the rescue brings others, who may not normally visit a shelter, in as prospective adopters, Parascandola said.
Still, he acknowledged that the group has much more work to do.
"This is just the beginning. We have a long, hard campaign in front of us to end the dog-meat trade in South Korea."