You Can Help Save Pups From Asia’s Dog Meat Trade
From adopting to fostering to sponsoring on Patreon, there are many ways to give these rescue organizations the support they need.
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In 2019, photographer and animal advocate Sophie Gamand visited a dog meat farm in South Korea. She was working on a project with Humane Society International (HSI) to create a series of portraits of dogs rescued from farms like this one.
“It was very similar to visiting a very bad animal shelter,” Gamand tells The Wildest over email. “Dogs in cages, isolated, distressed. What struck me the most were the huge piles of feces under their cages.” Gamand says she heard stories of dogs who had never felt grass under their paws, had never run around, and spent their entire lives in a state of limbo, awaiting a brutal death.
Per HSI, the dog meat trade is responsible for the deaths of roughly 30 million dogs every year across Asia. Roughly 10 to 20 million of these pups are killed in China, five million in Vietnam, two million in South Korea, and one million in Indonesia. Many of these dogs are stolen or picked up from the street, and in South Korea in particular, there are large-scale dog breeding farms.
HSI notes that dogs are subjected to brutal conditions at every stage of the process. In transit, they are crammed together in small trucks, with many dying of heat stroke, suffocation, or dehydration long before they reach their final destination. Once they arrive, the dogs are often kept in cramped, dirty cages, and in some areas, the animals are force-fed through feeding tubes to keep their weight up.
But defenders of the practice have argued that it is a cultural tradition, like Americans eating turkey at Thanksgiving, and wonder how eating dog meat is any different than eating beef or pork. “It’s a fair question,” Violet, an animal rights activist in Beijing, told NPR in 2016.
To that point, Gamand says that when she sees people criticizing dog farmers online, she cringes. “The truth is, people who farm dogs and participate in the dog meat trade are no different from people who farm cows or pigs.” She adds that many farmers want out of the dog meat trade. “These farmers want to move on.”
Indeed, there are growing movements in Asia and abroad to ban the dog meat trade. In China, 11 million people signed a petition to end the infamous Yulin Dog Meat Festival. And in February 2020, the southern Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai were the first in the country to ban the consumption of cats and dogs.
Additionally, numerous organizations have cropped up to help activists working to end the trade and to help rescue and re-home the animals involved. Below are some of these groups and information about how you can help.
Korean K9 Rescue
Gina Boehler started Korean K9 Rescue (KK9R) in 2017. Boehler started working in animal rescue in New York City in 2012, and when she learned about the brutal dog meat trade in Korea, she felt compelled to help. KK9R partners with a number of activists and rescuers in Korea, and operates a rescue facility in Bundang, South Korea, where it houses the many dogs it rescues from slaughterhouses, dog meat farms, high kill shelters, and strays.
At the Bundang facility, dogs receive health screenings, vaccinations, and training to help prepare them to travel to the New York City facility, and from there, to their new foster homes and forever families. So far, the group has rescued and adopted out over 2,000 dogs.
You can support KK9R by applying to foster or adopt one of their dogs. You can also support the group on Patreon or sponsor a dog by setting up a monthly donation that pays for food, treats, bedding, medication, and training. KK9R is currently fundraising for “Unchain Me, Korea,” an effort to rescue 20-plus chained dogs and educate residents in rural South Korea about alternative ways to care for their dogs, instead of keeping them chained outside all year.
The Soi Dog Foundation has a massive, multi-pronged approach to helping dogs in Thailand. Soi Dog started in the early aughts as an effort to spay and neuter some of the hundreds of thousands of stray dogs in Thailand, and over the years the group expanded their scope of work to include rescue, sterilization, vaccination, medical treatment, shelter, and adoption.
Their facilities in Phuket include state-of-the-art dog and cat hospitals and a shelter with adoptable animals. They also conduct daily mobile spay and neuter clinics around Bangkok. The group has also committed to help end the dog-and-cat meat trade in the region by supporting public service campaigns, legislative efforts, and law enforcement raids on illegal dog meat-trade operations.
You can support the Soi Dog Foundation by making a financial donation, donating supplies, sponsoring a dog or cat, or adopting one of the adorable rescues from their shelter. The group also has good merch for sale.
Animal Rescue Korea
Animal Rescue Korea (ARK)’s mission is twofold: to rescue victims of the dog meat trade and match them with caring homes in the U.S., Europe, and Canada and to support local activists in South Korea who are lobbying the government to officially ban the practice. To help ARK, you can adopt one of their sweet rescues, set up a monthly sponsorship payment through PayPal, or sign up to serve as a flight volunteer to help ferry the dogs from ARK’s facility in South Korea to their new homes overseas.
Harbin Slaughterhouse Survivors Animal Rescue
Harbin SHS started in July 2016, when three expats living in Harbin, China, took in a handful of dogs from a local slaughterhouse. Before they knew it, their operation had expanded rapidly: In their first eighteen months, the group rescued over 400 dogs and cats. To date, the group has rescued over 4,000 animals, and they show no signs of slowing down.
In 2018, they built a “safehouse” in Harbin to house the animals they rescued while they worked to re-home them, but they soon outgrew it. The original safehouse was only built to contain 120 animals, and the group has over 600 currently in their care. In 2022, they built a larger facility and are in the process of renovating it.
You can support Harbin SHS in a number of ways: you can adopt one of the dogs in their care or donate money to help them fund their new safehouse. For those interested in a more hands-on approach, the group also works with volunteers who help out at the safehouse or accompany rescued dogs on flights to their new homes. The group’s website says their volunteer program is currently closed due to COVID-19 but that any applications received will be kept on record for when the program reopens.
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Madeleine Aggeler is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, D.C. Previously, she was a writer at New York magazine’s The Cut. She lives with her dog, Cleo, who works primarily as a foot warmer.