- INCHON, South Korea (Reuters)
- The abattoir worker, in blue gumboots and bright red rubber gloves,
a long electric prod into a tiny makeshift cage into which three or four
dogs have been squeezed.
- There is a yelp as the prod finds its target. The animal
convulses and slumps. The process is repeated on the others.
- In the background, dozens of other dogs -- thick-set,
long-tailed animals bred for meat -- roam their larger enclosure, sniffing
the air keenly and scratching at the bars. It is not clear if they sense
- In the year that South Korea is co-hosting soccer's World
Cup finals with Japan, it has had to fend off broadsides against the eating
of dogmeat from football's world governing body, FIFA, and animal rights
activists such as actress Brigitte Bardot.
- Last month, a South Korean nutritionist who boasts scores
of dog recipes hit back, telling Reuters animal lovers should concentrate
on fighting to save species nearing extinction rather than attacking his
country's dog-eating tradition.
- "Why should they make a fuss about dogs which are
not near extinction," said Ann Yong-keun, a college professor who
has been dubbed "Dr Dogmeat" and wants to promote dogmeat during
the May 31-June 30 World Cup tournament.
- Now another dogmeat advocate, Moon Deok-bong, has shown
Reuters television the slaughtering process at an abattoir, a ramshackle
tangle of buildings and corrugated-iron sheds not far from Seoul's
- Any abattoir, by definition, is unlikely to make for
easy viewing, whether chickens, pigs, cows or sheep are being
- This slaughterhouse is no different. The dogs do not
appear to be deliberately ill treated.
- "In the past, when no proper equipment was
we did that," said Moon, referring to the controversial way dogs were
killed. "But now, they do it with electric shock, the way an animal
deserves when it is butchered."
- Animal rights activists say this is only part of the
story, contending some dogs are still killed illegally by beating, burning
- Certain types of dogs are bred in South Korea to be
notably in "poshintang", literally "body preservation
which advocates say is good for health and is considered a delicacy by
- Just 16 percent of dogs in South Korea are bred as
- Moon, who represents a regional group of restaurant
and abattoirs, is lobbying for the government to include dogmeat in broad
laws that govern butchers and restaurants providing beef and pork. Moon
plans to open his own restaurant.
- Dogmeat is popular in some other Asian countries,
- But it has particular importance for image-conscious
South Korea in World Cup year. The country has some 4,000 registered
specialising in dogmeat and many more offer it among other dishes.
- The last time South Korea hosted a major sports event
was the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Many city-centre dogmeat restaurants were
forced to shut down or move.
- This seems less likely to happen during the World Cup,
but activists are baying for action.
- DINERS SHRUG OFF PROTESTS
- At the slaughterhouse, about 20 to 30 dogs are killed
every day. They are bred and reared elsewhere.
- After electrocution, each dead dog is soaked in a tank
of scalding water, sodden paws periodically rolling over the side as the
abattoir worker dunks and turns the carcass.
- The worker hauls the animal out of the water and tosses
it with a dull thud into a rotating drum like a table-top spin-dryer to
remove the animal's coat.
- Next, a blowtorch is used to scorch the animals' skin
on a raised grill, in a process intended to make the meat more
- Finally, before the carcass is gutted and cut up, it
is vigorously scrubbed on the floor to remove the blackened layer from
what is still discernibly a dog, its limbs and tail made taut by
- At a nearby dogmeat restaurant, customers shrug off
and readily dig in to dishes of green vegetables and dogmeat.
- "They say it is easily absorbed, and I can really
feel that when I eat it," said 38-year-old Shin Sang-don, a man who
eats dogmeat regularly. "I eat it not because people say I should
eat it or not, but because I like it."
- Like many advocates, the customers say the meat is
- "After eating it, I think it's good for me,"
said 41-year-old Song Tae-im.
- "In what way? Well, it's good for my skin, and good
for preventing diseases associated with getting older," she
- Many Koreans are indifferent to the practice, and others
actively oppose it.
- "I don't disagree with it that much. It is a
thing. People have their own tastes. You cannot take the joy of eating
away from them," said 25-year-old Go Eun-hye as she fed her dogs at
a Seoul cafe that targets a growing number of dog owners and their
- "And (dogmeat) is known to be good for health in
- The dogs at the cafe seemingly have the run of the place
and clamber over the tables, enjoying pampering and tidbits offered to
them from bowls.
- "Is there any difference between the pet dog and
the dog bred for eating? I think they are same," said 31-year-old
Mah Joon-young. "People who raise dogs become attached to them. That
is why people should not eat dogs."
- (Additional reporting by Park Ina)
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