UPDATE, April 4, 2010:
Great news! As a result of protests and complaints from animal organizations and individuals around Korea, the government confirmed on April 2 that it will not go ahead with the Busan puppy mills project! At first we heard it would be "postponed," which was of course unacceptable. But now, it seems, it has been cancelled!
Puppy mill reality in Korea
Here is another astounding move by the Korean government that demonstrates its inept handling of animal welfare in Korea. Puppy mills are set to become part of a national policy!
Several governmental agencies and local administrations are involved in this ludicrous venture, including the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, the Rural Development Administration, the Gijang-gun Office and the Gijang Agricultural Technology Center in Busan.
These dogs live their whole miserable lives in small cages.
The Irresponsible Proposal
With government approval, a so-called Companion Animal Breeding Center is being established at the Agricultural Technology Center in Kijang-kun, Busan. It will open in March.
Typical of the Korean government's focus on generating money rather than raising ethical standards, the Companion Animal Breeding Center is designed as an income source for farmers. It is based on a belief that the companion animal industry will be booming by the next generation.
Breeding will focus the small high-end pet dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese dogs and Pomeranians. In other words, it will breed the kinds of dogs that currently live in crowded shelters all over Korea because they have been abandoned by irresponsible owners. This stupid government move will put a tremendous strain on volunteer and welfare agencies like KARA, who are already struggling to help shelters.
According to a spokesman from Agricultural Technology Center, "Once the center is opened, research and development to nurture the industry related with companion animals as a new industry of animal resources shall be fostered." This was said with apparent ignorance of the disaster ahead.
It has been reported that more than 1,000 animals are already at the center, even now before it opens.
The health and condition of puppy mill dogs are ignored.
The Lead-Up and Justification
The Rural Development Administration had a hearing on the development of the companion animal industry and relevant officials from related industries, academics, policy departments and others at the National Institute of Animal Science were in attendance. No one thought it prudent to ask any advice from animal welfare groups, or perhaps they did not want to hear it, which gives an idea of the direction the hearing was destined to head in.
At a hearing about the policy, Professor Kim Byung-soo of Gongju National University gave a presentation on the "Trend of Domestic and Overseas Studies of the companion animal" and General Manager Park Yong-hee of Korea Pet Industry Association presented "Prospect of Domestic and Overseas Advancement of the Companion Animal Industry." Other presentations were given, all naturally relating to profit rather than animal welfare.
It was concluded that companion animal breeding will be a growth industry--one that even offers export potential. Much of the forecast of the future relied on the idea that a greater population of singles will exist in the future who will want pets. A rising middle class was another excuse.
The market size of the companion animal industry in Korea is approximately 1 trillion KRW a year, less than 50 trillion KRW in the US and 12 trillion KRW in Japan. Clearly officials are presuming there is room for growth on a massive scale.
President Ra Seung-yong of the National Institute of Animal Science of Rural Development Administration said that, “Research will be undertaken to grow a new animal resource industry based on companion animals,” and he added that, “research will be diversified into the development of food for dogs, transplanting fertilized eggs, reproduction, and so on, starting this year to satisfy the demand of producers and consumers.”
This is the demand the government is hoping does exist or will exist. What Ra Seung-yong is really talking about is big money via a form of expanded animal exploitation. What he does not recognize is that this policy will produce is a national animal welfare disaster.
A dog living in its own filth without food or space to move
The Situation Now
Animal protection groups have to spend millions of won to rescue and protect abandoned animals every year. Each group has to raise millions of won by itself because they get no government help. The need for money and the situation for dogs will only get worse.
The Korean government is rushing headlong into a money making scheme without having considered the consequences. It does not seem to have factored into its decision making the reality that thousands of animals are killed by government run shelters every year.
Not only this, it is again going against a global trend in animal welfare. Forward thinking and progressive nations are encouraging and promoting the adoption of abandoned animals to solve their companion animal over-population problems. What does the backward Korean government propose to solve the problem in Korea? Breed more dogs!
The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery is fully aware of the companion animal problems that already exists in Korea. It even announced that the average number of abandoned animals annually is up around 100,000. That's conservative: animal protection groups estimated that the truer figure is up around 700,000 animals abandoned. It is incredible, then, that the ministry should be so irresponsible as to be backing the puppy mill proposal.
Of course, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery is the one that is far from adequately handling Korea's dog meat industry.
We already have in Korea an unscrupulous pet breeding industry rife with animal abuses. Breeding animals suffer in horrific conditions and surplus animals are killed or eaten.
The current animal protection law prohibits the sales of pet animals less then two months old. But this is ignored. Complaints from pet buyers and conflicts with pet sellers occur all the time. Sales of pet animals on the street or over the Internet are illegal, but government agencies stand by and do nothing.
Regulations on pet breeders and sellers insist on a number of facility-related requirements and training programs. But the enforcement of such regulations has been nonexistent. Even the training and qualification of public servants in charge of these areas is in question.
To date, government mismanagement has resulted in a cycle of animal abandonment and over-population that wastes enormous financial resources of volunteer agencies and tax payers' money. But now it is setting itself up to preside over an "expanded" version of what is already a most intollerable situation.
This dog was found living in darkness in a rusty cage under cardboard.
Response to Protests from the Gijang-gun Office
The English in the following letter is either original or translated. Either way it is not easy to read. Nonetheless, it gives a good indication of the ignorance abounding in government circles of life in the real world:
We express appreciation with high evaluation for having profound interests on love and protection of pet dog and other companion animals. The companion animal welfare center that this Gijang-gun wishes to undertake is focused on the animal welfare as the partner of valuable life that exchanges the emotion together with people for a long time with sharing of hearts coming from high age and nucleus family trend, not the experimental breeding for the new breeds of companion animal.
The part that you are concerned of, namely, the harassment of animal with the removal of medium not fit to the purpose of breeding process of new type may occur. However, the project that our agricultural technology center undertakes is to select outstanding medium for healthier and more social nature from outstanding dog breeds in the same category that we used the terminology of breeding in broad implication and there is no possibility of euthanasia or anything similar to that at all. For this purpose, an organization is structured and operated with the participation of professor in public health of companion animal, veterinarian, researcher, livestock technician and the like.
Currently, the reality of the pet dog producing farms have lack of conscience and breeding technology on the breed management to cause indiscrete production of hybrid kinds and cross breed today. In addition, the farms have difficulty in importing (or outstanding domestic breeds) of high priced breeding dog.
Consumers who purchased them would treat them as the pet animal rather than thinking as the companion animal that they will be discarded once the effective value declines that the problem of the stray dogs continues without removing such a problem that all people who love animals would share the sentiment. Looking into this aspect, if correct management and production of companion animal is made, the stray animal issue would be solved fundamentally.
Furthermore, before undertaking this project, the farms would be implemented for advance fundamental education in companion dog management, introduction of pet animal theories, animal protection law and the like for the welfare of companion animal and it would educate regularly on companion dog behavior psychology, pathology and others, and it would hold seminars on companion animal welfare from time to time.
In addition, together with those who wish to have the animals, we plan to have the companion animal culture even more matured not to have any animal harassment or inappropriate breeding management together with the socialization training and education of companion dog as well. And, in order to comply with the eight-week pedigree (8주령) of advanced countries of companion animal, sales of pedigree will be sold to purchasers with sufficient qualification.
We know that your heart to love animals and are the same as the heart of us. We hope you to participate with unyielding interest and affection, and we will lead to protect animals. Thank you.
A miserable dog with skin problems in a cage whose floor is thickly covered with feces.
What Should Be Done
Of course, this ridiculous scheme should be abandoned. What the government should be doing is promoting the sale of shelter animals through pet stores and working to re-home abandoned companion animals.
Why isn't this being done? It's simple: the government cannot make money from such an ethical and social service. It has to spend money to do what is essentially its job, but it doesn't want to.
The Korean government does not care about animals and it wants welfare agencies to pick up the bill.
* * *
Following are contact details for where to submit protests:
Person in Charge of the Project in Gijang County Office
(Agricultural Technology Center)
Kim Tae Su
Minister For Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MIFAFF)
Tel: 822- 500-1501~2/ 822-2110-4000
Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Fax: 822- 503- 7249
Mayor of Busan Mr. Huh-Nam-shik
Busan City Hall
051-120, Jungang-ro 2001
Yeonjae- Ku, Busan
Tel: 8251- 120
Mayor of Gijang- Gun, Busan
400, Gijang Dae-ro, Gijang-up
Tel: 8251-709- 4000
Fax: 8251- 709- 4444
Gijang Agriculture Technology Center
New Im-gwang Bldg.,
81 Uijuro, Seodaemun-gu
Tel: 8251- 709- 5303
Rural Development Administration
Administrator Mr. Kim, Jae-soo
Suin-ro, 150, Gwonseon-gu
Suwon city, Gyeonggi-do
Tel: 8231- 299-2200
Fax: 8231- 299- 2469