Dog’s dinner in South Korea

When did sporting bodies acquire the right to lecture nations about their diets?

Rob Lyons
Columnist

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Topics Politics

In the cult film Pulp Fiction, Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L Jackson) are having breakfast and discussing why Jules won’t eat pork (1). He says it is because a pig is a ‘filthy animal’:

VINCENT: How about dogs? Dogs eat their own faeces.

JULES: I don’t eat dog either.

VINCENT: Yes, but do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?

JULES: I wouldn’t go so far as to call a dog filthy, but they’re definitely dirty. But a dog’s got personality. And personality goes a long way.

By which logic, Jules would be more likely to eat a dog than a pig. Which is pretty much the opposite of what everybody else seems to think, judging by the way South Korea has been hounded for its tradition of eating dog.

For those of you live on a different planet, the soccer World Cup is held this year in South Korea and Japan, which has made both countries the centre of a lot of attention. And this has meant that lots of animal rights activists have used the opportunity to have a go at South Korea’s attitudes to our four-legged friends.

First up was former sex kitten Brigitte Bardot who has written an open letter to the people of Korea asking them to end their ‘barbaric’ practice of eating dog. This has not gone down too well with the Koreans, particularly after her phone interview on a radio show, ‘Sohn Suk-hee Eye Focus’. Dogs are ‘friends, not animals… Cows are grown to be eaten, dogs are not. I accept that many people eat beef, but a cultured country does not allow its people to eat dogs’, said Bardot.

When asked if she was aware that foreigners often ate dog while they were in the country, Bardot replied, ‘Foreigners wouldn’t eat dog meat unless they are deceived into believing the meat is beef or pork. I can’t continue talking with you liar Koreans any more’, and hung up. (2)

Of course, it is difficult to understand why anybody should pay attention to this has-been. In fact, a quick look at her website reveals a wealthy woman enjoying a moralistic vanity project:

‘Throughout the brilliant career with which we are all familiar, Brigitte Bardot never lost her passion for animals. Her many travels and the events of the day confronted her with a terribly cruel reality. She rapidly discovered that she could not limit her love to a few privileged animals – those she owned herself – because the misery of animals throughout the world was so great. Brigitte Bardot decided to take up the challenge against ignorance and misinformation, and to dedicate her life to a difficult vocation: the protection of animals.’ (3) I must admit that the thought of eating dog makes me mildly queasy but not nearly as nauseous as Bardot’s self-love.

There has also been plenty of animal horror story porn to be found on the web. ‘What was reported & documented to PAWS about KOREA’s treatment of dogs & cats will make you sick!!!! Korea is to cats & dogs what Hitler was to Jews! You won’t believe this nightmare! Warning! I couldn’t sleep for days after viewing and reading about this sadistic atrocity being perpetrated on our friends!!!!!!!’, squeals the Animals Hope Petition Team on a page entitled ‘Korea the Sadistic Country’. (Never mind the torture inflicted upon the English language by all those exclamation marks.)

There’s more: ‘Dogs are hung from ropes & slowly strangled to death, and while still alive, their fur is blowtorched off!! They are beaten to death or tortured in any number of ways that a sick mind can think of! Cats are boiled alive or beaten to death!’ (4) You can just imagine the writer banging away at the keyboard, twitching with excitement.

The strange thing is that when it has been proposed that dogs be brought within the mainstream meat processing regulations, with the effect of ensuring a quick and painless death, animal rights activists have opposed the move. Presumably because they would prefer the eating of dog to be outlawed, which isn’t going to happen if it is treated, quite sensibly, like any other meat (5).

All of which is pretty normal stuff for animal rights activists, whose bark has always been worse than their bite. It was the intervention of Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, which has been more important. ‘The World Cup would serve as an appropriate moment for Korea to show the world that it is sensitive to vociferous worldwide public opinion and that it rejects cruelty’, said Blatter in a statement. He hoped South Korea would introduce the same restrictions on the sale of dog that were operating during the Seoul Olympics in 1988 (6).

When did sporting bodies acquire the right to lecture nations about their diets? To use an analogy, what would happen if the Indian cricket team refused to tour England until roast beef was outlawed? What’s worse, by making such moral pronouncements, Blatter is setting football itself up for a fall. If FIFA expects the rest of the world to be saintly, the world cannot expect anything less from players and fans, which will only intensify the criticism when somebody connected with the game steps out of line.

Thankfully, the Koreans have never been the sort of people to let sleeping dogs lie. A new website, ‘Anti-Bardot’, has opened with the slogan ‘Until the day Bridget Bardot eats Bosintang’ (dog soup) (7). And now the Koreans have their very own ‘Dr Dogmeat’, Professor Yong-Geun Ann who has written a book defending the practice.

The professor sees the whole thing as racism on the part of Westerners who do not wish to understand a foreign culture: ‘I propose that even if there were a ban on eating dog meat in Korea, and whale meat in Japan, we Asians would still be looked upon as a yellow race with strange habits…. Is it any surprise that the USA would test the devastation of a nuclear bomb only on Japan?’ (8)

Now the dog meat industry plans to have stalls outside football games to promote their product during the tournament. Well, if the government lets them off the leash, that is. Fantastic. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘hotdog stall’ and provides yet another opportunity for the travelling football fan to try some weird shit from another country while intoxicated. What a shame England are playing in Japan.

(1) Pulp Fiction script, final draft, GodAmongstDirectors

(2) Quotes taken from Web site ridicules Bardot for making self-righteous remarks on Korean dogs, The Korea Herald, 8 December 2001 and Wok the Dog – What’s wrong with eating man’s best friend? by William Saletan, Slate, 16 January 2002

(3) A page of history, Fondation Brigitte Bardot

(4) Korea the Sadistic Country, Animals’ Hope Petition Team

(5) Wok the Dog – What’s wrong with eating man’s best friend? by William Saletan, Slate, 16 January 2002

(6) Fifa warns S Korea over dog meat, BBC News Online, 6 November 2001

(7) Anti-Bardot (in Korean text)

(8) Koreans and dog meat by Professor Yong-Geun Ann

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