Taepyeong Slaughterhouse in Seongnam City, which started in the 1990s, was the largest dog slaughterhouse in South Korea. At least 80,000 dogs every year were brutally slaughtered there, the meat being distributed throughout the country.
The slaughterhouse had been criticized for years by activists and citizens for its inhumane slaughter methods, its hygiene issues, and its illegal operations. The neighbors had also long complained about the bad smell and the screaming of dogs being tortured to death.
Last summer, we descended upon the slaughterhouse three times to expose the horrible reality of the place, which included the discovery of Canine Influenza rampant inside the cages and the dangers of its consequences for food hygiene. We filed suits against five dog meat vendors in Moran Market under the food sanitation law for selling infected meat from the nearby slaughterhouse.
Today, though, the slaughterhouse is finally gone. It is a significant milestone for the animal rights movement in South Korea, made possible by hard work and persistence, and the solidarity of ordinary citizens who wished to see the blight of this horrible place removed.
However, we missed something important; the lives and safety of the dogs. Hundreds of dogs left at the slaughterhouse had gone by the time of demolition. According to our investigation, the dogs were transferred somewhere else by the slaughterhouse owners and dog meat vendors two days prior. We had demanded that Seongnam City demolish the place when they had promised—November 22nd, 2018—but the apparently deliberate delay by the city bought enough time for the dogs to be removed.
If the administrative procedures had been carried out properly, the dogs should have been transferred to, and protected under, Seongnam City’s supervision and management. Then, the City could have charged a maintenance cost which would have persuaded the owners to give up the ownership of the dogs. It is not an imaginary scenario, but a sequential step if the local government had been willing to care for and protect the animals. We made it happen at Hanam and were able to save the lives of over one hundred dogs.
But, Seongnam City did not show any willingness to do this. If the City had tried to save the dogs and hadn’t accommodated the wishes of the owners and vendors to take the dogs even after the demolition date was due, the remaining dogs could have been saved and found loving families. Added to this, if the transferred dogs are still infected with Canine Influenza, the disease could spread to other dogs in other dog meat farms, with similar results and public health risks.
Even though the slaughter facilities at Taepyeong have been demolished, dog meat can still be bought at Moran Market. The local government has even supported dog meat vendors in the name of modernizing the market. This should not have happened, and it is a mistake by Seongnam City to consider the wishes of the dog meat industry over the lives of the animals.
That Taepyeong slaughterhouse should have been torn down long before now is obvious. However, the increasing awareness of animal rights and welfare in Korea, especially amongst the younger generation, has finally made it come to pass. And while we can’t yet celebrate the end of the dog meat industry in Korea, it is another step along the road of a more caring, compassionate, and—dare we hope—a more enlightened society which considers the rights and welfare of all its citizens, both human and non-human.