Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You may want to skip this; it's not pleasant

This one is hard for me to write.

All of us with a few months’ experience or less were asked to go to the Samduk school this morning for a little training with Dr. Kim and his wife. There were five of us: Ray, who’s been here three months, Alex, Luke, and Nicole, who’ve all arrived in the last week, and me.

Afterward, Ray led Luke and me across downtown to one of the bigger outdoor markets. There were hundreds of shops and stalls. Vendors of similar items were grouped together: ten with tools, a dozen with dishes, and so on: herbs, clothing, kitchen items.

And then we came to it: a narrow aisle with dozens of, maybe a hundred or more, food vendors. I was a little put off by the piles of big dead octopi and tanks of living fish the size of my forearm, and more disturbed by the tubs of live turtles waiting for slaughter. I tried to look straight ahead and run the gauntlet as quickly as possible. Then we came to a couple of tables with skinned dog carcasses.

According to the ‘net, it’s illegal now to eat dog in Korea, but it might still be done in some of the rural villages. Two and a half million people do not constitute a rural village. This market is only a few blocks from shops selling Ralph Lauren and DKNY!

Logically, as an animal-rights person, I think that it shouldn’t be more horrifying to eat dead dogs any more than, say, dead pigs. But that’s not how it feels, even for me. It feels as if it's a step short of cannibalism.

I’m sad when I walk by a restaurant with a big tank full of doomed fish or I’m in the grocery department of E-Mart and see the aquarium with dozens of crabs, each with a leg span of twenty inches, piled on each other. I learned to turn my response off back home, going by the lobster tank at the grocery. The restaurants here have tanks out front, with squid or crabs or carp in them. Sometimes there will be one swimming, or floating (dead), upside down. And that bothers me, too.

I don’t believe in causing the suffering and death of sentient beings to serve our "needs". Kindness to all creatures is at the heart of my spirituality. (I’m sorry if I sound preachy.)

But the slaughtering of dogs is one step beyond; knowing it happens and seeing the results are two different things.

I still feel sick two hours later, and I expect to see it behind my eyelids when I close my eyes tonight.

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