Friday, 16 July 2010

Korean Dog Meat

The subject of “Korean Dog Meat” is one which I purposely haven’t written about until now.

Why did I wait a year? The reason is really quite simple: I’m a Westerner.

As a Westerner, I had a strong bias on the subject before I moved here. Now that I’ve been living and breathing Korean culture for a full year, I feel like I’m now in a much better state of mind to write a balanced blog entry.

Let me first state that no, not all Koreans eat dog meat. While it was certainly a common Korean dish merely a few decades ago (especially after the Korean War at a time when beef and pork were difficult to obtain), it is becoming increasingly rare to find. Almost all restaurants in the major cities have removed dog meat from their menus, and people are beginning to adopt a “western outlook” regarding dogs as pets rather than a delicious source of lean meat.

Luxurious canine spas are popping up all over the country in response to the overwhelming demand to pamper these new pets. People are dishing out HUGE amounts of money to keep their furry friends groomed, full of expensive treats, and up-to-date with the latest fashion trends. Despite accepting this as “normal” practice, we are but a few countries that treat our pets better than our in-laws.

This morning was the first time I’ve ever witnessed the killing of a dog for meat.

The dog’s owner, a farmer, led it up onto a giant overturned bucket. He tied a thin wire around its neck, fastened it to the underside of an A-Frame ladder, and then pulled the bucket from under its legs. At first, the dog panicked and thrashed about back and forth with such viciousness that I thought the ladder would fall over. Its struggle only made the wire cut deeper into its neck as it spun around the central axis of the noose. A few moments later, its movements were reduced to full-body shudders, and then finally subsided to the occasional off-beat leg twitches. As quickly as it had started, it ended. The dog’s tongue hung off to the side as its eyes glazed over, staring straight up at the morning sky. Meanwhile, the farmer was off to one side, casually picking up branches that he had cut earlier from his apple tree.

I don’t like to see ANY animals die. Chickens, cows, pigs, and fish are all part of my regular diet, but I still have a difficult time seeing them being slaughtered for consumption.

But for me, seeing a dog being killed is on a whole different level of sensitivity. Why? In all honesty, I don’t know. They’re just animals like all the others…aren’t they? 

Well, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. From a scientific perspective, the answer is yes. From an anthropological perspective, the answer can be a resounding no. Different animals have been seen in different hierarchical levels at different points in history, and this varied tremendously by culture. I’m not going to try and debate which cultural ideals were (or currently are) morally right or wrong, I’m just trying to shed some light on a single event that prompted me to question the extent of my cultural “open-mindedness.”

I can easily debate either side of the “Korean Dog Meat” dispute, but what I can’t do is change the fact that I cringed as I watched a dog being killed this morning.

Some values are so deeply engrained that no amount of cultural immersion can completely remove them from the subconscious mind.

I will continue to eat meat, yet I will also buy our family dog his favourite treats when I return home to Canada.

I am not perfect.

I am, after all, just another animal…

- Ken

1 comment:

  1. Wow! what can one say.. I'm happy to never have seen a dog killed for it's meat. It was sad to read this entry but it does make you think.