4 August 2016

Response to Criticisms about Dog Meat Activism

In the summer of 2015 and 2016 I traveled to Seoul in South Korea to campaign against the dog meat trade. I gained some criticism from both Koreans and non-Koreans. I hope to address some of these issues here.

1. Eating dog is culture. How dare you criticise other people's culture.

I do not think that all culture should be seen as untouchable, virtuous traditions that bring richness to its people and so is above criticism. Culture is not always a good thing. Other examples of culture are child marriage, Chinese foot binding, female genital mutilation, homophobia, the caste system, human sacrifice, wife beating, racism, slavery, punishing suspected witches, killing albinos to make medicine, and so on. These are obviously not acceptable forms of culture. They should be criticised and abolished and if the people within the culture are not going to do this then other people need to step in and do so, in a helpful and respectful way. Korea has many other cultural practices which can be cherished- national costume, dance, martial arts, K-pop, great films- they don't need to rely on eating dog to give them a sense of identity.
Dog-eating Koreans are not respecting their own culture when they eat dog. One of the main breeds of dogs to be farmed and eaten is the Jindo, supposedly one of Korea's national treasures.

2. You are being racist. You are enforcing cultural imperialism/ colonial imperialism on another country/ group of people.

I love Korea and Korean people. It is a wonderful country where the people are very warm, friendly and polite. I feel very safe there. I am not going to Korea as a white, British woman to tell them what to do because I think that I am better than them. I am going to Korea to support Koreans- most Koreans are against the dog meat trade and are very upset and embarrassed by this practice (a report in July 2016 said that 27% supported the dog meat trade which leaves a majority of 73% who are against it). I do not think that British people and Britain are above criticism- far from it. Because of this I also campaign in my own country against injustices. If people want to come to my country and help me campaign against these things, then please do! I would love them to. I would not be offended at all if they were trying to raise awareness and stop cruelty happening in the UK.
Every nationality and race have something good to give to the world and we can all learn from each other to make the world a kinder and better place. Equally, every nationality and race have done or continue to do things which are considered shameful by others and we need to accept criticism on a national level (yes, I know how hard this is to do).
I don't think it is just Koreans, or Asians who eat dog. I have seen plenty of pictures of Westerners eating dog while holidaying- thinking that they are being very daring and funny to do so. I am equally against those people.

3. What about cows and pigs and all the other animals killed for food? Why are you only fighting for the dogs?

Personally, I don't eat any animals. I would love to see a world where humans did not eat animals but I know this is an unrealistic wish at the present time.
I campaign particularly for dogs because of the way they are killed. They are beaten and tortured to death in the belief that this will tenderise the meat, make it taste better and increase its medicinal properties.
Dogs help humans in so many ways- service dogs for the blind, deaf and autistic, search and rescue, drug detection, detecting diseases such as cancer, in the military, guard dogs, sheep dogs, etc. They serve us in so many ways. Dogs adore humans- it seems a particular betrayal to punish their species by eating them.
Often the first step to people becoming aware of animals' intelligence and sentience is from being close to an animal and this is often a dog. If a nation cannot be kind to dogs then the other animals have no hope of being treated well. I think dogs are a good place to start when trying to get people to love and care for all animals.

4. If the trade was legalised it would make conditions for the dogs much better. Why are you against this?

I just don't think dogs should be eaten. I think it is inhumane to consider that every species of animal on the planet is eligible to be on our plates. For people to be civilised there has to be a line drawn somewhere of which species it is absolutely not acceptable to kill and eat. Is it acceptable to eat gorillas, orangutans, elephants, birds of paradise, tigers, etc? I don't think it is and I think dogs, with their human-loving and serving capacities as mentioned earlier, should be in this taboo list too.

Ideally, I want to see dog-eating outlawed. It takes such a long time for governments to pass laws. If we started today to implement better conditions for farmed dogs it would take a few years to pass these laws.  I would rather ask the government to spend their time and efforts in outlawing the practice.

5. What about humans? You should be trying to help humans as they are more important than animals.

Even if you only care about humans and don't care about animals at all, you should still fight against cruelty to animals. Studies show that individuals who are violent to animals often go on to be violent to humans. It is dangerous for a society to ignore animal cruelty.
Eating dogs is detrimental to human health. The World Health Organisation published a study in to the practice. Humans can catch E. coli, Cholera, Trichinellosis, Rabies (this is not so much of a problem in rabies-free Korea) and other diseases from eating dog. The dog meat trade increases antibiotic resistance- one of the major concerns to human health today. There are also environmental violations surrounding dog farms, markets and slaughter houses.
People are wasting their money when they think that they will gain health benefits from eating dog. There is no scientific proof that says dog meat is good for health. In Korea it is considered to be cooling to eat dog but in China and Vietnam it is considered to be warming which suggests that the perceived effects are all in the mind. Dog meat is also supposed to be good for stamina and virility but again there is no proof of this.
If you care about Korean people, then they need to know how the dog meat trade is affecting their country's image and reputation. Whenever a Westerner mentions they will be visiting Korea, the first response they will inevitably be met with is "They eat dog there! Make sure you don't eat dog". This is not the reputation that Korea wants. It is harmful to international relations and tourism. And it is sad because the majority of Koreans do not indulge in this practice and it is a wonderful place to visit.

I do care about humans and I care for Korean humans too. I have been made aware of many causes some of its citizens are fighting. Some problems I have taken a particular interest in are:
- The Sewol ferry disaster happened in 2014 but it still has many unrecovered victims still in the boat under the water and no-one has taken responsibility. There is a huge protest about this at City Hall in Seoul and we made friends with some of these protestors.
- The construction of a US military base on Jeju Island, which was previously awarded with being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The failure of the Japanese government to acknowledge, apologise for and compensate the Korean 'Comfort Women' used as sexual slaves during their colonisation of Korea.

6. Korea is not a dog-eating country. You are making Korea look bad and this is not fair and a lie.

A substantial amount of Koreans eat dog or have eaten dog (27% according to a recent Korean report). Many Koreans own pet dogs and love them but they still see a difference between pet dogs and meat dogs- one has rights and deserves love and respect, and the other should have no rights and deserves to be killed for food. We can debate over the nuance of language  but I would still say this makes it a dog-eating country.

7. No-one in Korea eats dogs. They used to but don't do it any more. The pictures you are showing are from China or other countries. You are making Korea look bad and this is not fair and a lie.

Many Korean people do eat dogs. I have visited the dog meat farms, the markets where you can buy live dogs and dog meat, and the restaurants (there are 329 restaurants in Seoul alone). It is easy for you to find these places and see for yourself that I am not lying. Korean media have reported on these places- are they also lying? I have been told by enough Koreans that they eat dog and they find it very tasty and will not stop doing so. I can introduce you to these people. I actually appreciate that you are annoyed at me for publicising Korean dog eating as it shows that you are as offended about it as I am.


  1. Great points, thank you Madeline, your dedication is inspiring!

  2. Your argument against the practice of eating dogs echoes mine on every count. I so often hear that it's cultural and we have no right to judge or criticize another country's cultural practices. I have always responded as you did above: so many cultural practices over time and into the present were, and are, abhorrent. Any thinking person must conclude that those practices were, and are, wrong. I have often mentioned slavery, human sacrifice, cannibalism and female genital mutilation and child brides as examples. The list is very long. Saying something is cultural and, therefore, should be honored and allowed, is no argument at all for sanctioning cruelty of any kind. Those of us who are opposed to the dog meat trade have to confront the arguments for it, as you have done, along with all the other arguments why we should not oppose this practice.