by Leigh-Catherine Salway MA
WESTMINSTER HALL , PARLIAMENT
12TH SEPTEMBER 2016
Pola and I went as the K-9 Angels to listen to and watch this debate on the barbaric Korean Dog Meat Trade. Before the debate there was a small demo about this cruel business attended by other concerned Animal Lovers and our great friend and supporter Peter Egan the actor.
The debate was led by Oliver Dowden MP. It came about from an online e-government petition which gained over 100,000 signatures. When an online e-government petition has over 100,000 signatures the petitions committee decide whether the subject can be debated as back bench parliamentary business.
The debate itself was well attended by cross party MPs and it also gained uncontentious cross party support that discussions must be made with South Korea to put pressure on them to stop this heinous act of eating dog meat.
Many MPs who spoke in the debate spoke with compassion, knowledge and concern. Many of them cited cutural differences as an area that must be treated with sensitivity in any communication with Korea.
Margaret Ferrier SNP MP and Kerry McCarthy Labour MP both spoke exceptionally well on the subject. Also several MPs said that they had been inundated with phone calls and emails from their constituents, such is the strong feeling against the despicable Korean Dog Meat Trade.
Over 5 million dogs per year are killed for dog meat in Korea. 3 millions of these are farmed. The farms are filthy disgusting hell holes for dogs where the cruelty is limitless. The dogs in there have medical issues such as prolapsed bowels, eye infections and often even turn on each other resulting in the death of dogs. The other dogs we believe are stolen pets or even strays. There is also a concern for greyhounds past their best racing days here in the UK being shipped to South Korea and other Asian countries to race there, then if they lose they will end up as dog meat. I have myself seen a horrific photo of a greyhound being put alive into a pot of boiling water to be cooked. Screaming with pain and terror as he was starting to be boiled alive. We were informed by one MP that in May this year thankfully at Heathrow Airport a consignment of greyhounds en route for a South East Asian country was stopped. The farms range in sizes of those with around 20 dogs to industrial size farms with thousands of dogs, with an estimate of over 17,000 dog meat farms.
Sadly there is also another mythical belief that the more adrenaline produced by a dog before death makes the meat taste better with more flavour and renders it more tender. Therefore horrifically cruel methods of slaughter are used. Where dogs are beaten or tortured before death or as stated earlier boiled alive. Slaughter methods include being boiled alive, hanging, beating or even electrocution.
There are in Korea 20,000 dog meat restaurants and 9,000 health shops that sell a dog meat tonic, as sadly there is this mythical belief that eating dog meat has many health benefits. In fact it is the opposite as there is a real risk of rabies and anti microbial resistance due to the overuse of antibiotics on the farms where dogs are bred for their meat. It is also a seasonal trade being most popular in July and August.
However, during the debate we learnt that over 60% of young Koreans do not eat dog meat and find the idea of it repugnant – as indeed it is. Also the increase of dogs being pets is good as they are starting to be seen as companion animals i.e. pets rather than food.
It was encouraging to find out that the UK government has had discussions with the Korean government about this subject. In addition to the Korean ambassador to the UK having had communication from the UK government also. The UK ambassador to Korea has already raised the issue in Seoul.
Korea and the UK, we learnt, have a good relationship. Therefore those who spoke at the debate were of the opinion that past discussions have been favourably received by Korea.
Taiwan and the Phillipines have made eating dog meat illegal. Animals Asia said there is less criminality in South Korea so more cruelty occurs as they cut corners.
Dog meat is also expensive to eat and there are charities working in Korea to persuade and mentor dog meat farmers to go into other businesses. An example of this was that one dog meat farmer sold his 250 dogs to a charity who successfully rehomed these dogs around the world. The farmer started a scrap metal business as he firstly sold his dog crates to start it. There are also other Korean activists in Korea who are doing their best to stop it.
As we have no legal grounds as the UK government to stop it we can only intervene on moral grounds .
South Korea are holding the Winter Olympics in 2018 and MPs said that we can use this as another way to increase pressure on Korea to stop the dog meat trade, as high profile events like this can help causes. In the Seoul olympics years ago steps were taken to hide dog meat restaurants from tourists. The UK hope we can use this high profile event as an advantage in order to further put pressure on Korea to stop the dog meat trade.
To wind up the debate Catherine West MP, the Labour Shadow Minister, spoke and reiterated the fact that there are now more pets in South Korea which is again enforcing how cruel and inappropriate eating dog meat is.
Alok Sharma, the Government minister, confirmed that the UK government are happy to have further discussions with Korea to keep up the pressure. He also encouraged pet owners to take up the issue and lobby further. He concurred with one MP who said “culture can evolve and change” . He also commended the MPs who took part in the debate for their excellent contributions.
Whilst I also concur that culture can evolve and I found the debate a positive one in that I am encouraged by the steps being taken by the UK government, I do not agree that the dog meat trade is culture.
It is neither culture nor is it tradition. It is cruelty and torture.
The K-9 Angels will continue to monitor what steps the UK government take. We will ourselves keep up education and pressure via social media . Always doing our utmost to help those with no voice and no choice.
LEIGH-CATHERINE SALWAY MA