SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean dog farmers defiantly gobbled down canine meat at a counter-protest to an animal rights demonstration in Seoul on Friday (July 12), handing out leaflets touting the health benefits of the divisive delicacy.
Wearing headbands saying "Fight! Unite!" and dipping each stringy morsel in spicy sauce, the small but vocal group gathered paces away from a rally against the dog meat trade in front of South Korea's Parliament.
Around one million dogs are eaten every year in the country, where the greasy red meat is part of traditional cuisine.
But consumption has declined as the nation embraces the idea of dogs as pets instead of livestock, with slaughterhouses closing and pressure mounting from activists - at home and abroad - to ban eating the animals altogether.
Hollywood actress Kim Basinger, a long-time vegetarian, joined the group of black-clad animal rights protesters carrying handmade models of emaciated dead dogs.
But the farmers, who oppose legal measures currently tangled up in the courts to make killing pooches for meat illegal, were doggedly stating their case.
"Dog meat itself is a chunk of collagen, which is good for the skin and makes one a beautiful woman," the farmers' leaflet said, adding that it is also good for the health of the elderly.
"Dear citizens, please eat dog meat - a traditional, delicious delicacy that has been enjoyed by our ancestors for generations - without shame and thereby lead happy and healthy lives."
The two protests took place on what is the first of the summer's three hottest "dog days", as dictated by South Korean folk belief.
Many Koreans believe that eating chicken soup or dog meat on this particular day helps them beat the heat.
A 2017 survey found that 70 per cent of South Koreans do not eat dogs, but only about 40 per cent believe the practice should be banned.