By Rita Ross
Ross lives in Floyd County.
For readers unfamiliar with dog eating, cat eating, any animal eating by citizenry of South Korea, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, ad nauseam, it is not difficult to understand the dispassionate mind-set of those who eat dogs and cats when one reads the news story by Youkyung Lee, Associated Press, Seoul, of Aug. 31, “A flavor out of favor: Dog meat fades in S. Korea.”
In her detailed story, Lee regales us with the dog cooking, culinary background of South Korean dog food restaurateur Oh Keum-il, who is closing her famous — infamous — Seoul restaurant, Daegyo, “a reflection of the challenges facing a trade neither legal nor explicitly banned under South Korean laws governing livestock and food processing” — a statement full of sound and fury, saying and telling us absolutely nothing — to reopen as a beef barbecue diner.
I called Associated Press, puzzled by Lee’s apparent regret at the downturn of dog and cat eating and especially puzzled by her rapt attention to dog serving restaurateur Oh. Lee lives in Seoul — not America, as I had thought at first — so Lee still seems caught up in the disreputable dog and cat eating tradition, or culture, of generally older South Koreans.
Disappointingly, Lee devotes much less written space to those opposed to dog and cat eating and seamlessly writes that Oh “feels sad that young people are losing touch with the tradition.”
Reporters write neutral, unemotional news stories, but this is certainly not one of them. This is a personal commentary on dog/cat eating in South Korea and especially of Oh, who, if she wanted a publicist, could not do better than to hire Lee.
Accompanying the article is a photo of Oh lifting the cover off a pot of dog stew cooking on the stove, the photo showing how to cook dog meat (along with cracks in the restaurant’s kitchen wall).
One wonders what kind of dog is being cooked by Oh. German Shepherd (a favorite dog, being large and having more meat, but perhaps being cooked in parts as Oh is stirring a small pot)? Cocker Spaniel? Yellow dogs called Jindos specifically bred for food? Perhaps a puppy, then? One wonders that Lee, of all the AP photos to which she had access, favors showing us Americans the most harrowing photo of Oh cooking a dog.
Oh’s photo could have been replaced by the comparatively less grotesque, but still emotional, ubiquitous photo of hundreds of frightened and panting dogs — some wearing collars, making them stolen pets — tightly crammed into narrow cages loaded on a truck making its way to dog sellers who then sell to restaurants such as Oh’s.
Or, perhaps, a photo of dogs, cats and other animals caged for open display for sale as food at markets could have been shown. Lee does not mention Moran Market or Busan Gupo Meat Market, two notorious South Korean markets selling cats, kittens, dogs, puppies, rabbits, birds, snakes, tortoises, frogs . . . . Nor does she mention the annual Yulin Dog Festival this June 21 where thousands of dogs were slaughtered and eaten, but she does write of the three “dog days” when “South Koreans queue for the dish of shredded dog meat and vegetables in hot red soup . . . .”
South Korea now has animal rescues by compassionate “young” (and undoubtedly older) people, but they are relatively few in number and, at least for now, can only marginally influence the still dominant selling, killing, skinning, boiling, hanging, beating, poisoning and eating annually of 2 million to 2 ½ million dogs in South Korea alone.
Nor does Lee write of Soi Dogs, a notable and reputable Thailand rescue organization among other dog (and cat) rescue organizations devoted to saving and caring for those animals rescued off the trucks or from the streets. (I give a recurring monthly donation.)
But Lee does inform us that “Choi (secretary-general of a dog farmer’s association”) estimated that between 2 million and 2.5 million dogs are consumed in South Korea each year.” Think then of the many millions of dogs (and other animals) killed and eaten in the countries noted above.
Lee literally ends her story on quite a positive note for dog eaters. She quotes restaurateur Oh, “Even now when I see young people at my restaurant, I feel so happy.”
I end my commentary with a quote from Albert Schweitzer: “Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”