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Old June 2nd, 2002, 11:02 AM
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PETA targets Korean dog meat

PETA targets Korean dog meat
Caged protesters demand end to 'barbaric' practice

Richard Starnes
The Ottawa Citizen

Friday, May 31, 2002, Reuters

Animal rights activists cram into a wire cage in downtown Seoul, South Korea, yesterday, to protest against the practice of killing dogs and cats for eventual consumption in restaurants across Korea.

The action was timed to attract maximum international attention on the eve of soccer's World Cup finals, which are expected to attract billions of television viewers in 188 countries around the world.

The action by U.S.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was the latest in a series of protests aimed at shaming the South Korean government into banning dog-meat sales during the month-long tournament, which kicked off this morning.

The demonstrators demanded that South Korea's animal protection law be amended to specifically prohibit what they claim is the regular practice of beating, hanging and boiling alive of cats and dogs.

About three million of South Korea's 47 million people are believed to eat dog meat, and there are an estimated 6,000 dog-meat restaurants nationwide.

Certain breeds of dog are raised to be eaten, notably in poshintang -- literally "body preservation stew" -- a delicacy that advocates say is healthy.

Activists say some of these dogs are intentionally tortured, as pain-induced hormones are believed to boost men's virility, while cats are tossed alive into boiling water to extract their juices for health tonics.

South Korea has faced mounting demands from international animal rights groups, including Le Fondation Brigitte Bardot, to put an end to the "barbarous" practice of eating dog.

The government shut down dog restaurants during the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics even though the country has no law governing the sale of dog meat.

This time it has steadfastly refused to take action, despite suggestions it might damage the nation's image.

Early this year, Ms. Bardot wrote an open letter to the people of South Korea in which she said she had seen dogs come up to their executioners innocently hoping to be petted.

"These images haunt me and make me cry," she wrote.

"Defending and justifying this brutality in the name of culture is an absurdity."

Dog-meat supporters argue it is an indigenous Korean food just like horse meat, snails and pigeons in other countries.

"It is outrageous that these foreigners come into Korea and criticize another country's traditional food culture," said Choi Young-gil, a 58-year-old man who stopped to look at yesterday's cage protest outside Seoul's Toksu Palace. "They must really look down on our people to think they can come in here and criticize."

Earlier, a Spanish journalist admitted he had paid $65 for a puppy he had been photographing for a feature on the dog-meat market in Ulsan. He wanted to save it from being sold as meat.

The Antena 3 TV cameraman, who named the dog 'Camachin,' or 'Little Camacho,' after Spain's soccer coach, Jose Antonio Camacho, said he hoped it would bring luck to the Spanish team.

Asked what he felt about the Korean custom of eating dogs, Mr. Camacho, holding the tiny pup in his hands, said: "We eat snails. The customs of all foreign countries are sometimes strange."

Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen
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