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Free Range Eggs and Korean ex-military dogs

2-3 days ago, these two topics were in the top three search words in the news item in the Korean news portal Daum, both to do with animal rights, which is rather close to my heart.

The first piece concerns the rise in the public interest in 동물복지/방목 eggs, which was triggered by a KBS TV consumer report (aired 8th March 2013) which delved into the current practice of egg-farming. The effect of the newly introduced (July 2012) government scheme which awards marks to egg farms in which the chickens are raised in a happier environment (be it larger space, or “free-range”), and the rise of consumers in Korea who are actually demanding the well-being of the animals.

The second piece of news concerns the public outrage following the exposure during an interview with a military official who unwittingly admitted to the military dogs being sent to veterinary schools for use in the medical experiments at the end of their working life. The use of ex-service and ex-military dogs in such experiments is expressedly forbidden by the animal rights law, and this violation has brought on a campaign to bring to light the number of dogs affected and those responsible.

In the last few years, I have really been thinking hard almost every day on the questions, ranging from a consumer’s perpective to a dog owner’s point of view. The least bit of difference I could make was to pay around 2000 won more for half a dozen eggs (around 1.5 euros more).
I’m glad that Korean consumers are also willing to do the same. As I see time and time again (pigs down the river news from China), the (mis)treatment of animals and the concern with animal rights is something that transcends culture and speaks of something so fundamental in ourselves.

A few years ago in Korea, there was a fad of “WELL BEING” which meant that one could see the bloody catch-phrase in almost everything from apartment complexes to ddubokis which drove me up the wall. WTF is a 웰빙떡볶이? Well, finally the right usage of the word and the interest in WELL-BEING of animals will come home to roost in Korea.

  • Bob Bobbs

    10 syllablic chunks and a comma for you: Seong Nam Shi, Mo Ran Gae Go Gi Shi Jang.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    You’re preaching to the choir.

    I know now although I was not aware of it during my childhood / young adulthood in Korea. It’s surprising, how completely sheltered one might be from such things, my own upbringing brings President Park’s own parallel universe to my mind now. I grew up completely unaware of dog eating practice being so pervasive (i.e. nobody in my family, or their friends or, anyone I knew! ) until recently and on this blog.

    It was also the same with prostitutes. I never believed there were Amsterdam/Bangkok style prostitute on display windows in Korea until a wegookin who’d lived in Seoul less than 1 year took me to somewhere near Yongsan station (or some station) to show me.
    All I can hope for is a natural development instead of the misguided culture/national crap against those “damn foreigners trying to force their way on us” backlash prolonging itself.

  • Bob Bobbs

    I admire the persuasive nature of your words, but I eat meat and don’t quite understand the drawing of boundaries around things like working-dogs in the midst of wholesale slaughter. In the wider context, it makes me wonder just what sort of basic rights dogs are entitled to before they are put to death and how that debate affects just how they are killed.

    More locally, it smacks of the Korean drawing of lines between edible (what I have always assumed were mixed-breed, although they seem fairly heterogenous to me) ddong gae and inedible (socially inedible? Because they cost a lot of money?) purebreds. This attachment to purebreds often made me wonder if Koreans viewed people in that way, too. Widespread contempt for non-white westerners as not really western (read: white and blue-eyed) enough to work in their hagwons backed this theory up too.

    As for your second point about being sheltered, we all have much to learn about our own surroundings. I like what Robert said earlier about thinking he knew everything about Korea at his six- year mark in country, and realizing now that he hadn’t really known anything at that point.

  • http://www.gofundme.com/1k98a8 Jakgani

    There are HEAPS on display in windows around all US military bases in Korea, especially Bosan/Dongducheon.

    They used to be Russian 10 years ago, now they have been replaced by Philippino’s.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    More locally, it smacks of the Korean drawing of lines between edible (what I have always assumed were mixed-breed, although they seem fairly heterogenous to me) ddong gae and inedible (socially inedible? Because they cost a lot of money?) purebreds.

    Again, I cannot agree with you more.

    Since I am reading a lot about dogs, to me “breeds” are no more than “race”, (indeed the German word for breed is Rasse), and I get very upset at the usual “they are bred for meat” crap. It is very very interesting the scientific theory behind selective evolution and separation into dogs and all the similarities and different traits. At the moment I am reading In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw which is actually in the avatar next to my own dog, which is nothing to do with animal rights or dogmeat but just understanding their behaviour and scientific theories.

    The blatant truth is, that this is no argument with this “bred for meat”. The problem started with battery farming, when we started consuming way more food (especially meat) than we need across the world, and seeing as this happened relatively late in the countries which industrialized later, dogs whose primary function was to be social companions (even in countries like Korea) got swept under cultural defense crap.
    Indeed nothing makes me shudder more than that very brainless ignorant trait of “I love my little chiwawa but those savage looking things in the cage are bred for meat so it’s OK”.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    However, I do believe that the more exposure the Korean news items like that on “working dogs” or “military dogs” get, the more hope we have of the mass just becoming aware that really, they cannot separate between the dogmeat dogs and dogs that they take to the doggie nail parlour have. That’s what I meant by “a natural development”.
    It would be either a case of collective-hypocricy, collective-brain-being-cross-wired, or a collective switch-missing if they could separate (and keep on flaunting it) and we had a legitimate McDognalds next to a Pet Parlour.

  • ChuckRamone

    I know this has been discussed at MH before … but anyway.

    There’s lots of evidence that dogs evolved alongside humans in a way that makes them completely unique from domesticated wolves, foxes or coyotes. There have been studies on this, and dogs react very strongly to human speech and movements; they look to humans for cues to how to act. When a wolf is brought up by humans, it still retains its instincts for making decisions on its own. Dogs have evolved a unique set of symbiotic traits, and it’s clear they have been human companions for millennia. There’s no separation between a meat dog and a pet dog. They’re all the same breed. There is however, a clear separation between dogs and other wild canines.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    I know, you know, and we know. And soon more Koreans in Korea will know, and it will just eradicate the “so what?” brigade from about half the population to something inconsequential, unless they suffer from one of the three “collective” conditions I mentioned in my reply to Bob Bobbs

  • ChuckRamone

    Yeah, I just think if you’re gonna do it, at least be willing to admit that dogs are not just tamed wolves, and that you’re eating a human companion animal. If you’re willing to accept that, and not try to say well we eat cows or whatever, then I’m fine with your decision.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    I’m not fine with the decision. I don’t know how anybody can be. The more I think about it the less it is the squeam of the act of eating that I object to, it’s the condition that these companion breeds are raised for meat. It’s just not practical or achievable, especially when looked at in the same vein as now we are trying to eat eggs from “happier” hens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cactusmcharris Jeff Harris

    Motherfuckers who turn over for medical testing military dogs after the dogs’ working career is over should be horsewhipped. The dogs have done their job for their country – let them go to an old dogs’ home or put a round into their heads.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    And I fucking agree.

    The hilarious thing is that this all came to light in this article which highlights how great these dogs are and how they have become indispensable military family members in the protection against the enemies, and the guy unwittingly said how

    정훈공보실장 김희강 소령은 “살아선 국가안보와 국익에, 죽어선 의학발전에 기여한다”고 말했다. ‘빈츠’나 ‘우정이’ 등 군견은 대한민국의 영공 방위체제에서 없어서는 안 될 ‘군 가족’인 것이다.

    Yeah, and we send our families to medical experiments. It will be the medical experiments for the lot of you!

    Look, today this one is going to Yunpyung to take part in the strengthened defence against the North Koreans.

    Here is the Daum Agora you can sign to bring to light exactly how many ex-airforce dogs were sent as experiments and deal out the punishment accordingly (but doesn’t say horsewhipping).

    http://bbs3.agora.media.daum.net/gaia/do/petition/read?bbsId=P001&articleId=134229

    Also there was a similar one against these dogs getting euthanasia in November 2011 where plenty of people signed, which highlights people’s ambivalent sentiment on that issue as well.

  • LaCoreen

    Animal rights…what about human rights? Aren’t those more important but apparently feeling guilty about eating commodity that is farmed just like any other food you eat in McDonalds is much more important than coorporate subordinates being beaten, north korean children dying. Oh, and I’m not surprised a YUNA wrote this article. Seriously articles like this perpetuate that all Koreans are animal hating folks this is not at all true, but animals should be treated like animals if humans are to be treated like humans?

  • LaCoreen

    Calm down. Military dogs are put to death anyhow at the end of their working career. This is necessary because if the dog falls into the wrong hands, it can seriously give a criminal an upper hand. Yeah, it sucks for the dog but that’s what he was trained for and unfortunately, and his death is a necessary evil. Just think, he’s been more useful than all of us here combined by sniffing out bombs and saving tens of thousands of lives. And to top that off, he contributes to the medical science of dogs by accident, but such is the life of a hard working military/police dog. Ideally, they should organize a little retirement pen down in Jeollado, where the air is fresher, and they will be fed only the best lean red meat.

  • LaCoreen

    Look at me everyone, I am from a powerful democratic country with GDP multiple times the size of the puny South Korean levels. I have full authority to declare all domestic activities, cultures and traditions aside, in those smaller countries requiring our scrutiny, so that we may dictate what is ethical and unethical, because it’s unethical in our country, it must be that your country and your people are unable to understand that this is unethical, and we will humiliate your culture and your countrymen just to deliver the point that certain things that is accepted in your society will be discredited and denied, so that your children will argue against you.