Despite the Olympic Games kicking off with a sworn oath to refrain from political demonstrations, the 2018 Winter Olympics have become a political battlefield involving issues with North Korea, and now, protests over dog meat.
The issue of dog meat has been one of central controversy at many international sporting events. During the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan, everyone, including local citizens, visitors, journalists, athletes, and animal rights activities, put forth their highly-opinionated stance on dog meat consumption.
|Boshintang, or dog meat soup, has reemerged at the center of a heated debate during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.|
In Korea, most of the dog meat comes from a breed of dogs called Nureongi, which are local yellowish landrace commonly used as livestock dogs for meat and not as pets. Dog meat soup or Bosingtang – a literal translation of “invigorating soup” – is believed by some to hold therapeutic effects with high health and nutritional value, especially when consumed during the summertime.
In anticipation of criticism directed at dog meat consumption, the local government had reportedly handed out up to 20 million won ($18,439) to restaurant owners near the Olympic venues to stop selling dishes with dog meat before the games. They also offered up to 10 million won to restaurants that would merely change the name of a dog meat dish called Boshingtang from “dog meat soup” to “nutritional soup” on their menu.
But according to local reports, only a minority took up the offer. Meanwhile, Humane Society International (HSI), an animal activist group, estimated around 17,000 dog farms in Korea that breeds around 2.5 million dogs annually for human consumption. The team has taken a proactive stance in shutting down dog meat restaurants around the area.
Online petitions and street protests in Seoul also called for boycotts of the Olympics in protest of dog meat consumption.
According to the Associated Press, Canadian figure skater Meagan Duhamel recently helped rescue a dog from a local dog meat farm through adoption while encouraging others to do the same. Reports showed she also hoped to help put down a dog meat farm after the games.
Meanwhile, those critical of the criticism levied on dog meat consumption are questioning why dog meat is considered different from that of pork, beef, or chicken considering all animals could be raised as livestock. It remains a divisive issue since a sizeable Korean population believes that even though they do not eat it themselves, others should not be restricted from enjoying the dish.
Historically, dog meat has been the center of debates mainly due to slaughtering methods employed. Although the Animal Protection Act prohibits brutal animal killings and the killing of dogs in the streets or in front of other dogs, farmers were reported to electrocute, hang, or physically beat dogs to death. The cruel killing methods may arise from a legal loophole that exempts dog meat - unlike beef, port, or poultry - from the Livestock Processing Act, which enforces hygienic slaughtering of livestock and processing of meat.
Although bosingtang is unlikely to be entirely gone from the country soon, the animal activist group HSI noted that most people in South Korea do not regularly consume dog meat. Many refuse or refrain from eating dog meat due to the increased awareness of animal rights as well as an increase in pet ownership. According to local statistics, far less than half of the population had ever tried dog meat, and of them, only a tiny percentage eats it regularly.