Uncaged Campaigns Upset Over Korean Xenotransplantation Plan

Earlier this month the Associated Press reported that South Korea was preparing to spend $73 million to kick start an effort to mass produce organs for transplant from pigs into human beings. The South Korean project will included 90 researchers and aims to produce pigs whose organs can be transplanted into human beings by 2010.

Dan Lyons of Uncaged Campaigns quickly put out a press release opposing the plan under the headline, “Korean pig organ transplant plans sparks international alarm.” From reading the press release, however, the “international alarm” appears to be limited to Lyons perhaps being outraged about it while on an intercontinental flight.

In the press release, Lyons is quoted as saying,

Pig-to-primate organ transplant experimentation has caused controversy across Europe and North America because of the appalling cruelty involved and the danger of creating a new viral epidemic. With South KoreaÂ’s terrible animal welfare reputation – symbolised by dog eating – and the recent lethal SARS outbreak in the Far East, this announcement will ring alarm bells around the world.

What is the point of Britain refusing to allow cross-species transplants if they take place in countries with no regulation? Viruses donÂ’t need passports.

Well, it should ring alarm bells in Great Britain — if it remains a hostile venue for animal research, groundbreaking work such as on xenotransplantation will simply shift to Asia, leaving the UK at risk of falling permanently behind in biosciences research.

As far as pig-to-primate organ transplant experimentation causing controversy, at least in North America the only group that seems to really find this controversial are animal rights activists. Of course, by that standard the diet of 98 percent of North Americans “has caused controversy.”

Lyons continues,

Xenotransplantation is more like bioalchemy than biotechnology. Drug companies have sacrificed tens of millions of pounds and tens of thousands of innocent animals, only to find that the whole idea is a cruel deception. With 180 million years of evolution separating pigs from humans, and advances in stem cell technology and other alternatives, we urge the South Koreans to consider whether this is really a good investment.

Lyons, of course, neglects to mention that those advances in stem cell technology are do in large measure thanks to exactly the sort of basic animal research that Uncaged Campaigns opposes. Whether or not xenotransplantation will ever be a viable alternative to human organ transplants remains to be seen, but it is certainly much more likely to happen than seeing Lyons and his compatriots actually maintain a consistent, truthful position about animal research.

Source:

Korea to mass-produce pig organs for human transplants. Associated Press, June 1, 2004.

The Other World Cup Meat Controversy

The controversy over dog meat in South Korea has garnered a fair bit of attention ahead of the start of the 2002 World Cup, but there is another meat controversy involving the other country that will host the Cup, Japan. In this case, it is animal rights activists trying to pressure British football players into signing a pledge not to eat any whale meat while they are in Japan.

Japan kills more than 600 whales annually for what it claims are research purposes, but most of the whales end up being served in Japanese restaurants (and Japan has made no secret of its desire to outright resume commercial whaling). In fact, although it still lacks the votes on the International WHaling Commission to push through a resumption of commercial whaling, Japan did recently announce that it will start hunting sei whales this year after a 26 year hiatus.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare recently issued a press release calling for British athletes not to eat whale meat while they are in Japan. In the press release, IFAW UK director Phyllis Campbell-McRae said,

We’re asking for their assurance that they won’t eat whale meat during their stay in Japan. Each player is invited to sign and return a form pledging ‘I won’t be eating whale at the World Cup’ in support of IFAW’s campaign against Japan’s killing of hundreds of whales each year.

Sources:

Nations Condemn Japan Whaling Plans. Associated Press, May 7, 2002.

England team urged to ‘stay on side’ for the whales during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. International Fund for Animal Welfare, Press Release, May 7, 2002.

Korean Restaurants May Offer Dog Meat Samples to World Cup Tourists

Last week the Associated Press reported that a group of dog meat restaurants planned to offer visitors to the World Cup free samples of dog meat, including steamed meat, soup, sandwiches and hamburgers containing the controversial South Korean delicacy.

About 3 million of South Korea’s 47 million people are estimated to eat dog meat and there are as many as 6,000 restaurants that serve dog meat in South Korea.

But a few days after the Associated Press report, Choi Han-Gwon, the leader of the dog meat restaurant association, denied the Associated Press report — though his denial is unlikely to assuage animal rights activists.

The Courier Mail quoted Han-Gwon as saying that although the restaurateurs would not offer free samples of dog meat, “We plan to develop canned dog meat tonic juice, which football fans can enjoy in their stadium seats while watching the games.”

Han-Gwon said that offering dog meat hamburgers and sandwiches would be too “sensational[ist]” and bring “excessive publicity” — along with a possible backlash from the South Korean government.

The World Cup gets under on May 31 and is co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.

Sources:

World Cup to Have Dog Meat Samples. Associated Press, April 28, 2002.

Visitors to sample dog meat delicacy. Courier Mail, April 27, 2002.

South Korea May Legalize Sale of Dog Meat

As this site reported back in November (see FIFA Takes on Dog Meat), animal rights activists are using South Korea’s hosting of the 2002 World Cup as an opportunity to campaign against dog meat. FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, urged South Korea to crack down on cruelty to dogs killed for meat. So far, though, the campaign seems to be backfiring.

Media outlets in South Korea have taken offense at what they see as a form of cultural imperialism, which has spurred 20 legislators to introduce a bill that would make the sale of dog meat legal.

Dog meat is apparently eaten mostly by men who believe it increases their virility. Dogs were often cruelly hun and beaten with bats to soften their flesh before they were killed, but South Korea outlawed that practice and now requires that dogs be electrocuted — though whether or not the government vigorously enforces the ban on beating dogs is debatable. It is legal to serve dog meat in South Korea, but it is not legal to sell dog meat as such.

Twenty members of South Korea’s parliament recently introduced a measure which would include dogs within the Livestock Processing Act. This would set out requirements for humanely slaughtering dogs, but would also have the effect of explicitly allowing the sale of dog meat within South Korea.

As for whether or not the concern about dog meat was cultural imperialism, Robert J. Fouser, a professor at Kagoshima University in Japan, wrote an op-ed piece for The Korea Herald. Fouser wrote,

To be sure, those who defend the custom of eating dog meat have logic on their side. Food culture varies widely around the globe, leaving no universal standard from which to determine what is acceptable for human beings to eat. Amid this wealth of culinary diversity in the world, to single out the custom of eating dog meat as barbaric is ridiculous.

Fouser also urged the South Korean media not to depict the controversy over dog meat as a clash of Asian vs. Western cultures. As Fouser wrote,

The problem with reporting on the dog meat controversy is that complaints about dog meat rarely make the headlines in the West because there is so much other news to report. Most people in West know little about Korea and care little about what Koreans eat. The animal rights activists are one of hundreds of special interest groups that focus on a single issue. They have a small group of loyal supporters who pay dues and provide foot soldiers for demonstrations and lobbying activities. Though the protests of animal rights make for splashy news photos, their activities move only tiny numbers of votes in Western countries.

Sounds like he’s got the animal rights movement pretty well pegged.

Sources:

Let dog meat be. Robert J. Fouser, The Korea Herald, December 26, 2001.

Call to legalise dog meat. The BBC, December 28, 2001.

FIFA Takes on Dog Meat

With the 2002 World Cup slated to take place in South Korea and Japan, Fifa — football’s governing body — is pressuring South Korea to take actions against the eating of dogs.

According to the BBC, during the 1988 Seoul Olympics South Korea outright banned restaurants that served dog meat, but a soup made from dog meat is very popular.

It is unclear from the BBC story whether Fifa objects to dog meat itself or only to the sometimes cruel methods used to prepare and kill dogs used for food. Either way, someone might want to point out to Fifa that the leather used to create the official World Cup soccer balls is also produced under conditions which many animal rights activists consider to be cruel.

Source:

S Korea dog meat row deepens. The BBC, November 12, 2001.