Dog meat farm rescues take spotlight in Seoul photo exhibition

A new photo exhibition in Seoul, "Beyond Prejudice," features dogs rescued from meat farms in South Korea. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI
1 of 8 | A new photo exhibition in Seoul, "Beyond Prejudice," features dogs rescued from meat farms in South Korea. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI

SEOUL, May 30 (UPI) -- Once destined for slaughter in cramped and filthy cages, dogs rescued from meat farms in South Korea and adopted overseas are taking center stage in a new photo exhibition that showcases their resiliency and highlights the growing call for a ban on dog meat.

The show, Beyond Prejudice, is the work of French photographer Sophie Gamand in coordination with animal welfare group Humane Society International, which has closed 18 farms in South Korea since 2015.


Thirty dogs are featured in portraits wearing personalized collars created by Gamand, with breeds ranging from the Korean Tosas and Jindos often used in the meat trade to Pomeranians, Corgis and golden retrievers.

"For me, it's about giving these dogs their dignity back," Garmand told UPI. "I want people to love them and to see the beauty in them."

Gamand, who is based in Los Angeles, focuses on at-risk and rescue dogs in her artwork through projects such as the photo series Pit Bull Flower Power, which looked to transform the image of pit bulls seeking adoption.


With elaborate collars, colorful backgrounds and studio lighting, Gamand said she is hoping to change the perception of Jindos and Tosas, which are sometimes seen more as farm animals for slaughter than pets.

"The campaign was about dispelling a few myths," Gamand, who visited a meat farm in 2019, said. "One myth being that these dogs -- Tosas and Jindos -- are soulless. So we wanted to create portraits that show they are actually just like any other dog."

Another goal of the exhibition is to keep awareness of dog meat in the public eye at a time when there is a growing political and social will to put a stop to a practice that has fallen precipitously out of favor, particularly among younger Koreans.

South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee called for and end to dog meat consumption in a newspaper interview last June and raised the issue again during a private meeting with animal rights groups last month. According to local media reports, Kim said she would push to accomplish a ban during the term of her husband, President Yoon Suk-yeol, which ends in 2027.

An association of dog farmers protested the remarks.

Bipartisan support has emerged behind a ban, with lawmakers from both the ruling People Power Party and opposition Democratic Party last month proposing bills that would outlaw the butchery and sale of dog meat and make its consumption illegal.


According to a survey conducted by Nielsen Korea in October, 87.5% of South Koreans said they would never eat dog meat, a seasonal tradition that lingers primarily among older generations.

Public support for a ban has also continued to climb, with 56% favoring making the practice illegal, according to the survey -- a figure that spiked from less than 35% in 2017.

"This is a critical moment," Sangkyung Lee, dog meat campaign manager for HSI Korea, told UPI at the exhibition. "We see the political will, with both parties saying they will come out with bills banning dog meat consumption. Also socially, people are getting to know the dog meat industry well. This type of event will raise that awareness and help change people's perceptions."

Beyond Prejudice, which opened Sunday and runs through Thursday, is being held at the Seoul Metro Art Center, a cultural space located inside the busy Gyeongbokgung subway station. The location allows gallery-goers and everyday commuters to come face to face with Gamand's large-scale portraits of dogs such as Comet, Abby, Sam, Jayu and Winnie.

"[This location] is a great mix, where art meets the general public," Gamand said. "We can touch people that maybe never even think about this issue. I would love for people to look into these eyes and ask themselves: Do these dogs deserve the way we treat them? Once you do that little exercise, it's hard to go back."


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