Sunday, November 21, 2010

We're All Going To Hell Tomorrow

Today we went to Jeonju "Zoo". I put that in quotation marks because it's really more like a cruel and unusual prison for animals. The animals have almost no space, many had no water and almost none had anywhere they could sit that was away from people. Unsurprisingly, many of them have gone completely batshit insane as a result. There was a Himalayan wolf in an enclosure about the size of a double garage with a concrete floor, running around in circles. We saw it not long after we went into the zoo and again a couple of hours later as we were leaving and it was still going.

It's also okay to feed the animals. There were vendors selling big bags of rice wafer things for that purpose. There was a mandrill that had become an expert at catching food thrown to it by people. Maybe that's okay when it's bananas and mandarins, but it seems risky at best to leave these animals' diets up to the whim of the general public.

There were huge brown bears with sad, dead eyes in tiny cages with concrete floors. There were dogs in tiny round pens maybe two metres in diameter. There was a puppy in a room by itself separated from the public by a glass partition, stared at by people all day but never getting to play. The elephants had no water to drink, let alone bathe in. The sheep had no grass. They're sheep. They eat grass, they live on grass, their whole world is grass. There was some growing within a few metres of their pen, but they were just walking around on dry dirt. We went and picked some grass and fed it to them and they went crazy for it.

One of the bears. We didn't get too many pictures, we were too busy being sad.

The zoo could be made heaps better with almost no work at all, starting by moving the sheep closer to the grass. There were huge open spaces in between the cages that didn't seem to do anything. There was a picnic area the size of three football fields with about ten people standing around on it. There were big garden areas with no particularly interesting plants in them. All these areas need is a fence and they would make decent enclosures for some of the animals. If money's the problem then maybe they need to start charging more than 1300 won (about two bucks). The Garden of Morning Calm was amazing, but at the end of the day it's a garden and it cost 8000 won.

To be fair there were a few animals that seemed to be reasonably well cared for, like this zebra. But they were a tiny minority and their conditions were far from ideal.

Most depressing of all (though it faced some stiff competition) was a camel that looked so sick and so skinny that it might die at any moment and I don't think anyone would notice. Certainly no-one would care. You could see the outline of the bones in its legs and what it fur it had left was all matted and gross. We bought two packs of the rice wafer things and fed them to the camel, who devoured all of them.

There is a belief in Korea that animals don't have feelings, but anyone who saw the looks in the eyes of these animals - or as Anna put it, anyone who has ever owned a dog - knows better. It is common for dogs here to be tied up on short leads their entire lives. At the Hanok village yesterday we even saw a kitten on a chain. We thought it would be frightened but it was so happy to get some attention that it jumped on my lap when I bent down to pat it.

You can just make out the chain next to my right wrist.

There are many things that I struggle with in this country that I put down to cultural difference. In the time that I'm here I hope to learn to understand these differences and why Korean people are the way they are. But I never want to understand how they can treat animals this way.

Don't support this cruel and barbaric abuse of animals. Please don't visit Jeonju zoo.


  1. I see you've noticed some of the things I have. Did you know there is a pen with deer in it just about a hundred meters from the Kwanza?

  2. I haven't ventured in that direction, but it wouldn't surprise me. I was doing some research online and there's a 'Monkey School' near Buan which looks awful. So upsetting.

  3. I haven't seen the deer either, but I've heard the dogs wailing across the valley (as I'm sure we all have). And I've seen many sick and terrified looking animals in what pass for pet shops in Seoul.