Luna started her life on a dog meat farm in South Korea, before being rescued and adopted into a loving home. Millions more need saving – find out what’s being done to help them.
Looking at her big smile and appealing brown eyes, you’d assume Luna has enjoyed a happy, healthy, pampered life right from puppyhood. But nothing could be further from the truth. Believe it or not, this beautiful pooch started her life on a dog meat farm in South Korea.
“Two years ago, a courageous and compassionate woman named Jinoak Oh was told that 20 dogs living at a chicken farm near her house would be sold to a dog meat market,” says EK Park, the founder and director of Free Korean Dogs, a Toronto-based non-profit organization that works to end the dog meat trade through education, community outreach and an international adoption program. “These poor dogs had been fed diseased and dead chickens,” says EK. “Due to the horrible smell and taste of the chickens, the dogs often refused to eat them until they couldn’t handle their hunger. No water or shelter had been provided by the farm owner.”
For months, Jinoak visited the farm to give the dogs fresh food and water, even though the farmer threatened and verbally abused her. When he decided to sell the dogs to the meat market, Jinoak raised $5,000 US to rescue them. “She also gave the owner another $1,000 US to sign an agreement to never have dogs on his farm again.”
After asking many Korean animal shelters for assistance with the 20 rescued dogs, but with no success, Jinoak built Gin Oak Shelter so she could take care of the animals herself. Free Korean Dogs stepped in to lend a hand, and since then, Gin Oak Shelter has been helped with donations and by people in the US and Canada who are eager to adopt the “chicken far” dogs, and others, and give them the loving homes they deserve.
One of those people is Nichole Ryan, who lives in Oshawa, Ontario. She adopted Luna, formerly known as Sharon, an affectionate young female who loves people despite her miserable past on the chicken farm. Luna has settled in well to her new home, and has become a beloved member of the Ryan family, proof positive that these dogs make wonderful and loyal companion animals.
Happily, all 20 “chicken farm” dogs have been adopted since they were rescued by Jinoak in 2014. But the dog meat trade is still big business in South Korea, so there’s a huge amount of work yet to do. “Each year, over two million dogs are slaughtered by Korea’s unregulated dog meat industry, often after enduring unbearable suffering,” says EK. As horrendous as it is to contemplate, the dogs are tortured before being killed and made into stews and soups, because it’s believed the extra adrenaline in their bodies makes the meat taste better and increases the virility of those eating it. Men over 50 make up the largest demographic of Koreans supporting the dog meat industry.
Because those who consume dog meat regard it as a cultural delicacy, getting them to stop eating it isn’t easy. The approach has to include educating people about the terrible cruelty involved in slaughtering the dogs, teaching them about compassion, and showing them what wonderful loving companions these dogs make.
“We have a three-point strategy to end the cruelty and promote compassion toward dogs in Korea,” says EK. “Education and awareness are critical for permanent change. If the story of Korea’s dogs is told effectively and shared broadly, demand for dog meat will decrease and the industry will decline. To that end, we are shooting a documentary film to share the story of Korea’s dogs and highlight the efforts of our colleagues.”
Entitled Compassion Soup: the End of Dog Meat in Korea, the documentary is being directed by EK, who was born in Korea and lived there for 30 years before moving to Canada — along with being the founder of Free Korean Dogs, she is also a photographer and videographer.
“Through our crowd fundraising campaign we raised $12,756 US for the film,” EK says. “This helped us start the documentary here in Canada. But it costs a lot to shoot a feature film, especially in two languages across two countries. The production cost of Compassion Soup was estimated at $55,000 US, so we still need $42,244 US.” Donations for the film, and/or for Free Korean Dogs’ other work, can be made through the website at freekoreandogs.org.
As of this writing, EK is in South Korea working on the film, which is designed not to vilify dog meat eaters, but to appeal to their compassionate side. “Criticizing dog meat consumers as barbaric simply won’t work as they will argue back with cultural relativism,” says EK. “Paradoxically, shaming Korean dog meat consumers has contributed to making dog meat advocates and nationalists raise their voices even stronger. You can change someone’s actions with blame or punishments; but without true understanding of why those actions are not right, real change won’t happen.
“To end the dog meat trade, we need to build understanding, empathy and compassion in Korea and around the world,” EK continues. “Only then will we see real progress toward replacing cruelty with compassion for dogs in Korea, and for all other animals on earth.”