South Korea’s new “First Dog” represents so much more than just another adoption from a shelter.
It’s an important step towards animal rights in a country with a notoriously cruel dog meat trade.
According to the Animal Welfare Institute, as many as two million dogs are reported to be slaughtered each year for food in South Korea.
While cultural norms vary from country to country, group to group and tradition to tradition, there are numerous documented, and more untold cases, of horrific cruelty at dog meat farms.
Animal welfare officials say the dogs are slaughtered under extreme conditions due to a belief that their “fear and suffering” will produce high adrenaline levels at their time of death. That then, locals are said to believe, makes their meat more “tender” and increases “supposed health benefits.”
Having their necks snapped, being electrocuted and beaten, and hanging are all forms of how these animals are put to death, says the Animal Welfare Institute. Horrifying details.
And that’s just the end of their lives. The welfare group details how they live as well.
“From birth to slaughter, these dogs are kept in cramped rusty, cages stacked on top of each other,” reports the Animal Welfare Institute.
That’s how life started for Tori, the name given to South Korea’s new first dog. According to the BBC, Tori was rescued by the animal rights group, Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth, also known as CARE.
The group says he was days away from being sold to a butcher.
Tori, a 4-year-old mixed breed, then spent another two years as a shelter dog. Another factor working against him, Tori is a black dog.
According to the BBC report, serious prejudices exist against black dogs in South Korea.
CARE says people in the country prefer white or cream-colored dog that are purebred, and have superstitions against dark or black dogs that are mixed breeds.
In breaking down barriers for animals rights, President Moon Jae-in campaigned not just on the promise to adopt a dog from an animal shelter, but to build more pet playgrounds and stray cat feeding facilities in South Korea.
The BBC goes on to report that while South Korea’s president has not called for a complete ban on the dog meat trade, he has said he would like to “phase it out.”
Small steps for animal rights and an end to brutality against man’s best friend.
As animal right’s activists continue to fight for the end of the trade, Tori’s rags to riches story is a small victory.
He is the first shelter pet to become the country’s First Dog. From certain brutal death on a farm to a forever home at The Blue House, South Korea’s presidential palace in Seoul.
Most importantly though, Tori now has love, as well as furry friends in the president’s two other pets, another dog named Maru and a former shelter cat named Jjing-Jjing.
His rescue also means hope for other dogs like him, animals living in terror, never knowing kindness and warmth do exist. And that there are men and women that they can find a friend in.