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Arts and Entertainment

These Puppies Were Rescued From Meat Trade And Are Up For Adoption

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Alexandra Chun is a Korean-American actress living in Los Angeles, and she’s looking for forever homes for Jindo puppies rescued from the meat trade in South Korea. Chun tells LAist that she initially thought the dog meat trade in Asia was a myth, but after seeing several videos that indicated otherwise, she boarded a plane bound for her home country in June to see for herself. Chun, who lived in South Korea until she was 7 years old, says this trip would change her life.

When she arrived, she connected with activist Nami Kim, who Chun says regularly protests the practice and attempts to rescue dogs who have been bred for food. She also personally visited the Moran Market in Seongnam, which she found horrifying. She described witnessing cage after cage, eating containing dogs available for slaughter and purchase, many of them quite young.

"It was hellish and gruesome and surreal," she says. "I could not believe that this was going on."

Chun took video while at the markets. While the footage itself is not particularly graphic, you can see them crammed into cages and hear them barking. There is a lot of Chun sobbing, overwhelmed by what she has seen.

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At the market, she connected with one dog in particular, and refused to leave until they sold her the dog. After an hour or so of refusing to sell her a live animal, she says a neighboring vendor convinced the dog's owner to sell it to her alive. She ended up returning to the U.S. with that dog and two more.

Though Chun says multiple breeds of dogs are bred for consumption, the dogs Chun rescued are Jindos, a spitz-type dog that is known for being staunchly loyal and quite intelligent. They require plenty of exercise and care, and are ideal companion dogs who display a strong attachment to their human owners. Oddly enough, the jindo is the national dog of Korea.

Chun recently brought six more jindos to the the Los Angeles area, the eldest being four months old. They came from a meat farm that had been shut down. Unable to bear the thought of the dogs enduring a Korean winter without a home, Chun says she asked Kim to send her some of the puppies. These six were the healthiest of the bunch. She held an adoption party to find them homes, and three of them are still up for grabs. Chun is charging $280 to $325 per puppy to ensure each is placed in a good, dedicated home with owners that intend to keep them. She is also allowing new owners a one-week trial period to ensure that there are no issues with the jindos and any existing pets or other issues that may arise. Protesting the dog trade may seem hypocritical to some, or at the very least an unfair criticism of other cultures. After all, Americans commonly balk at the idea of eating domesticated pets, such as dogs and cats, but have no problems chowing down on a burger topped with bacon. Chun did not return home and resume eating meat. She says she became a vegan after her visit to South Korea.

"I was a Korean BBQ meat-eater all my life, but being exposed to so much animal slaughter, I couldn't bring myself to eat another piece of meat," she says. "I've had enough animal protein to last lifetimes."

Chun also regards the slaughter of dogs as different than other livestock, despite her abstinence from it all. Dogs, she says, are sentient and trusting, but what's more is how they are raised and slaughtered. "The whole point of the dog meat is that it necessitates torture," she claims. "The whole point of eating dog in [South Korea] is that you have to torture them in order to make the dish."

According to Chun, the dogs are bred for their meat, then kept in small cages and tortured. She says that many of the animals are not dead prior to being boiled or skinned, because of a false belief that dogs release chemicals during suffering that can be used as a tonic, especially when used in a soup that is consumed on hot days. Younger dogs, she says, are turned into a beverage that is mixed with soju, also used as a tonic.

A 2011 Reuters article talks about the soup bo-shin-tang, which is eaten on hot days. One man who was eating the soup said that he ate it because it "boosts my energy, even when I am most tired." There is no mention in that article about the alleged torture, though in 1999 BBC article, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) claimed that some dogs were killed via electrocution or hanged, then skinned and blowtorched. WSPA's report that the skinning and blowtorching could, at times, take place while the animal was still alive.

This assertion is supported by the nonprofit In Defense of Animals:

This $2 billion dollar-a-year industry extinguishes the lives of approximately two and a half million dogs a year for meat or gaesoju, a dog broth or stamina food, and about 100,000 cats, for soup and goyangyeesoju or “health tonics.” At the end of their brief and miserable lives, farmers and butchers kill in the most horrific fashion with impunity: dogs are murdered with high-voltage electrocution, not dying immediately, are hanged, beaten to death, and frequently have their throats slashed. They are killed within sight of their doomed cage mates, thrown into a tub of boiling water, then into a rotating drum for the removal of their fur, and finally blowtorched, often while still alive. Cats are bludgeoned and thrown into boiling water while conscious. Many have their legs broken so they can’t escape, and are skinned alive. Unlike dogs, cats are not farmed for their meat, but are stolen, surrendered, or picked up as strays. Perhaps most pernicious of all is the nightmarish fiction, fueled solely by profit, that the more suffering endured during slaughter, the more tender the meat and more potent the so-called medicinal properties.
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Writer Rolf Potts said that eating dog dates back to the Stone Age, and that some texts mentioned that dog meat could "fortify the spirit" due to the similarities between what humans and dogs eat. However, Potts also wrote that claims of increased male virility are modern.

Chun says that the commercialization of dog meat is not particularly old, nor a time-honored tradition. There are also many people, like Kim, who do not participate or agree with it. Chun is hoping that protests and legislation will end the practice of dog farming and slaughter, especially because Seoul momentarily stopped the sale and consumption of dog meat when hosting the 1988 Olympics, which indicates to her that "the government knows this is a shameful act." If the trade is shut down, that means that many dogs—an estimated 2 million, according to Chun—would be without a home or purpose, and many of them could be pregnant. While Chun feels euthanasia is more merciful than a torturous death, she has hopes some of these farms and markets could be converted into shelters or pet stores.

Anyone who is interested in adopting one of the jindos is encouraged to look at Chun's Facebook page, where she has posted pictures of the puppies as well as her contact information. Anyone who might like to adopt a rescued jindo from South Korea could also check out the available animals via Korean Dogs Sanctuary's page here.

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