Survivors of the Dog Meat Trade portrays over 40 dogs of various breeds and sizes rescued from the dog meat trade by Humane Society International to support our campaign to end this industry in South Korea, including actor Daniel Henney’s rescued dog Juliette. Sophie Gamand/for HSI
Not long ago, for a golden retriever now known as Chewbacca (nicknamed Chewy), the whole world was the small, dirty space inside the four wire sides of his enclosure. Chewy spent the first five years of his life on a dog meat farm in South Korea.
But Chewy was lucky. The farmer was sympathetic to him and always overtook him when it was time to slaughter. Then, in 2019, Humane Society International worked with the farmer to shut down the dog meat farm for good and help the farmer transition to a different way of making a living.
Look to the present, and we see that Chewy not only enjoys a loving home with HSI President Jeff Flocken and his family, but also dons an intricate collar as a dog model for award-winning photographer, artist, and canine advocate Sophie Gamand, whose new project Dogs shows meat farm survivors in a stunning new light.
Gamand says a dog collar is like a wedding ring: it’s a commitment, a promise. And that kind of astute perception of what we owe animals is why I’m so honored that she chose to photograph a series of portraits of survivors of South Korea’s dog meat farms and hand-made collars for the shoot as a symbol of the building dogs. Journeys from farm cages to loving families. These are compelling portraits of people who have lived through the polar extremes of the canine experience. Beautiful works of art in their own right, the images will also help raise public awareness across South Korea about dog meat farming and our campaign to end the dog meat industry in that country.
Changing people’s minds with the click of a trigger is nothing new for Gamand, its previous series Pitbull flower powerportrays pit bull-type dogs as loving, generous, and sensitive animals and helped adopt many of them. Dog meat trade survivors portrays over 40 dogs of various breeds and sizes, and the images aim to change public perceptions, influence policy makers and generate national and international momentum in support of our campaign to end the dog meat trade.
This project is particularly close to my heart as I’ve been to dog meat farms in South Korea. I’ve seen the rows and rows of wire cages containing dog after dog after dog. I have witnessed the trauma of these intensive breeding facilities affect dogs in different ways – some jumping up frantically and wagging their tails at someone walking by; others remain huddled in the corners of their cages, too scared to even make eye contact. I heard the eerie silence broken by whimpers and intermittent barks.
I am always in awe of our employees who go into these farms to negotiate with the farmers, shut down the farms and rescue and rehabilitate the dogs, turning them from sometimes broken souls into happy, trusting puppies.
Like so many of these dogs, Chewy had a tough recovery. He had a horrific case of heartworm that took several months to resolve after arriving at his new home. He was also very nervous and irritable: he barked all night, jumped on new people until they tore their clothes, and chased the family cat around the house. It took a behavior specialist and the constant love and devotion of his family; Today, Chewy is a very calm, happy – and clearly quite photogenic – dog.
All dogs deserve a chance to be part of a loving family. We will not rest until these farms are finally closed and no more dogs are caged and deprived of the opportunity to live full, happy lives.
The survivors of the dog meat tradeThe portrait series is on public view through June 9 at Hamilton-Selway Fine Art in West Hollywood, California.
You can join us to end the dog meat trade.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter@HSUSKittyBlock.
Animal Rescue and Care, Humane Society International