At the end of last year, I wrote about how South Korea had been impacted by foot and mouth disease, which resulted in the culling of hundreds of thousands of cows and pigs.
Since then, the situation has only gotten worse. More farms throughout the country have been infected, including an outbreak in North Korea. Avian flu has also spread at both chicken and duck farms.
I received an update on the situation from Hyun Joo Lee, director of Green Korea United and President of Meat Free Monday Korea. We had met at the COP 16 Climate talks in Cancun. Lee writes:
“A serious foot-and-mouth disease occurred in South Korea on November 2011. More than 3.5 million livestock with foot-and-mouth disease and 6 million birds with avian influenza have been buried alive. The culling, as shown in some video clips, was a horrible massacre. Many workers involved in the culling have been treated for post-traumatic stress. With the government putting more than 3 trillion won($2.7 billion), the virus seems to have no end. The preventive culling had devoted to more killings of the helpless animals, posing a potential environmental threat, including massive contamination of water and soil, and washing away of unstable soil.”
The group Coexistence for Animal Rights on Earth (CARE Korea) had filmed this graphic video of pigs being buried alive. CNN also reports on the situation here.
In this article, “Hard to Say Goodbye,” the Korea JoongAng Daily, explores the emotional trauma experienced by both humans and animals during these recent culling:
“Although they can’t speak, most cattle shed tears when we drive them into a corner to be killed,” said Yoo In-yeol, 51, a forklift driver who has been helping bury slaughtered livestock in Cheonan, South Chungcheong…
Yoo says that every time he pushes soil on top of the dead animals, he weeps and asks to be forgiven. Even after leaving the scene, he suffers from nightmares and hears the cries of the cattle and pigs in auditory hallucinations.
Activists in Korea are looking to join forces with civic groups around the world to halt the animal massacres and draw attention to this tragedy. Last week 35 groups convened to discuss this issue. They hope that foreign media will also focus their attention on this pressing matter.
Hyun Joo Lee hopes that this will be an opportunity to trigger a larger discussion, to not only criticize the culling, but to examine the origins of foot-and-mouth disease and the problems with factory farming and meat consumption.