Not long ago, our Humane Society International team in South Korea discovered yet another heartbreaking scene on a dog meat farm: Dozens and dozens of dogs were locked in feces-filled cages awaiting slaughter. Many were pregnant, days away from giving birth to puppies who would only know a life of misery. We knew we had to act.

Last week, international team members arrived in Seoul to support HSI/Korea in removing these dogs and starting the rehabilitation process. When they arrived, they were careful to approach the pups with a calm and gentle demeanor. These dogs, who have been raised for slaughter, have known nothing but hardship for their whole lives—they had no idea how much things were about to change.

This was the 18th dog meat farm Humane Society International has closed. As our team members carried the dogs out of their cages forever, everyone could feel the importance of the moment. National Assembly Member Insoon Nam and members of her staff also joined our team on the farm to witness the conditions, a mark of growing support for ending the dog meat industry in South Korea,

The dog meat farmer, 73-year-old Mr. Yang, who has been operating in South Korea’s Chungcheong province, will now retire and grow cabbages and other crops to be self-sufficient and to sell locally, thanks to Humane Society International/Korea’s Models for Change program, which has been helping farmers transition away from dog meat since 2015.

Lola Webber, director of HSI’s campaigns to end dog meat, comforts Mia during the rescue operation at a dog meat farm in Asan, South Korea.
Jean Chung for HSI

This closure is part of our efforts to end the dog meat trade throughout Asia, and it comes at a particularly crucial time as public and political support for our position is increasing in South Korea. Last year, first lady of South Korea, Kim Keon-hee, openly called for a ban, and latest opinion surveys show that 87.5% of South Koreans don’t eat dog meat and 56% support a ban. And for the first time ever, several presidential candidates stated that ending the dog meat trade was on their agenda. Our campaign has been working for years to raise awareness about the plight of dogs on meat farms. We are urging the government to begin a program that mirrors HSI’s model to phase out dog meat.

The nearly 200 dogs and puppies our team saved from the now-shuttered farm are being transported to the U.S. and Canada to eventually seek adoptive families. But first they will need to heal from their trauma. I’ve been on the ground at other dog meat farms in South Korea, and I will never forget the rows and rows of wire cages, containing dog after dog after dog. I remember walking by and seeing some dogs stand up and wag their tails. Even though they’ve likely never known love or kindness, they still seek it. I’m confident that with patience, love and expert care, these dogs will soon be ready for the next phase of their lives.

Since HSI/Korea’s Models for Change program began, we have rescued more than 2,700 dogs who have found adoptive families in the U.S., Canada, the UK, the Netherlands and South Korea.
Jean Chung for HSI

Since our Models for Change program began, I am proud to say that we have rescued more than 2,700 dogs who have found adoptive families in the U.S., Canada, the UK, the Netherlands and South Korea. Yet, there’s more work to be done: Up to 1 million dogs are still bred on thousands of farms across South Korea. These dogs suffer physically and mentally typically in small, barren, wire cages without proper food, water, stimulation, comfort, shelter or veterinary care before they are killed by electrocution for human consumption.

Mr. Yang was heartened watching our team at work: “I was surprised and enlightened by the way the team interacts with the dogs. Even with their clothes covered in dog poop, they kept smiling and talking kindly to the dogs,” he said. “I feel happy that these dogs will go to a good place.”

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.