Sunday, April 9, 2006

Koraegogi (whale meat)

One thing I forgot to mention in my Haeundae post... while down in Pusan at the Japanese eatery we went to last night, one of the items on the menu was koraegogi, whale meat. 20,000 won (about US$20) for I'm not sure how many pieces.

While I am always tempted to try new things for the sake of trying them (thus my horrific encounter with pŏndegi, or silkworm larvae, when I was a teen), social responsibility takes hold in cases like this and I give it a pass.

While I would love to be able to say I've tried the stuff so that I can include my own perceptions as part of an argument one way or the other, I know that consuming it will be creating demand for more whale meat down the road, even if just in small increments. And given how I feel about the unnecessary and cruel killing of God's intelligent creatures, that would be an inappropriate thing to do. "Trying it" creates demand; and the purveyors of whale meat are trying to jump-start demand by getting people to re-acquire this acquired taste.

I feel similarly about dog meat, a matter where The Marmot and I part company. Unless it can be demonstrated to me that the dogs were not treated cruelly during the time fo their death, transport, or being raised, I will not partake in any kaegogi. This point was underscored for me last month while on Expressway 25, between Kwangju (Gwangju) and Ch'ŏnan (Cheonan).

There I saw a typical flat-bed Porter-style small truck, the back filled with cages which were also piled three-high. Each cage was literally stuffed with live dogs, with so little room they could barely move. Many of the more than one hundred dogs had their faces and/or bodies pressed against the metal mesh of the cage they were in.

To make matters worse, these creatures were completely exposed to the elements as they were being whisked along at 120 kph in freezing weather. I only wish I had a working camera nearby so I could have documented this horrific treatment.

This is like the argument against eating veal: if this is what is required to bring the meat of these creatures to the table, then I want no part. And frankly, I think the current consumption of the animals themselves perpetuates such cruelty.

[above photo: The dogs here are in a situation much like I just described, except that there were three tiers of cages, not just two as in this photo. Also, the dogs were a little smaller than these, so most cages appeared to have three dogs in them, not just two.]


  1. I agree with you on dog. I haven't eaten it nor do I plan to, for the same reasons you mention. I once saw some old men "preparing" a still-live dog hanging from a tree, and that was enough for me.

    I do, however, eat whale. I love it, in fact. My wife and her family are from Ulsan, where folks have been hunting whale for 8,000 years, according to petroglyphic evidence.

    I respect your reasons for not eating whale. Still, nothing has convinced me that whales, or minky whales in particular, have anything approaching human intelligence.

    They say pigs are pretty intelligent, but the reason I don't eat that much pork is that I don't like the taste. Or perhaps it is some atavistic response stemming from my 1/8th Jewish ancestry.

    Whales are fair game as far as I'm concerned. I have less qualms about eating free-range whale or any other hunted animal than I do about factory-farmed beef, pork, or chicken.

    While I eat factory-farmed meat, I realize there are serious ethical concerns about it, as former Bush speech-writer Matthew Scully points out.

  2. Whales are not as intelligent as dogs, but they still feel pain. I can't remember where I heard the quote, "If whales could scream, whaling would be banned." The manner of death is long, painful, and bloody, not to mention that so many species are on the endangered list and no species survives in abundance.

    The treatment of cows, pigs, and chickens on US factory farms is little better than the fate of dinner dogs in Korea. Future hamburgers and pork chops spend their lives in crowded, dirty barns. They see daylight and breathe fresh air only when they are being transported to slaughter. The ad agency behind the happy California cows commercials should be sued for false advertising.

    I am not a vegan. I make delicious and nutritious homemade broth from animal bones rich in minerals and occasionally eat cold-water fish or eggs. I believe in and support sustainable farming by eating a plant-based diet because it is good for the planet and good for my body.

    Okay, I'll get off the soapbox now.


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