The animal-rights movement is deploying a dramatic tactic in its battle against the Asian dog-meat trade, sending celebrities like Kim Basinger and Priscilla Presley out to picket while holding fluffy dead dogs in their arms and waving placards with grotesque pictures of canine carcasses.
Basinger and Presley, both longtime animal lovers and supporters of People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals, were joined by Donna D'Errico of "Baywatch" and voice actress E.G. Daily of Nickelodeon's soon-to-be-rebooted "Rugrats" in a protest outside the consulate of South Korea in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Their goal: to raise awareness in America about the annual "inhumane slaughter" of about one million dogs in the Korean dog-meat trade alone.
Simultaneous protests took place in Washington, D.C. and in South Korea but the Los Angeles event was the one with the celebrities and the dead dogs.
"The dogs represented those that are routinely tortured before they are hung, beaten, electrocuted or boiled alive on South Korean dog meat farms," said Chris DeRose, founder the protest organizer, Last Chance for Animals, in an email to USA TODAY. "The purpose for using the dogs was to draw attention and encourage compassion for dogs as companion animals, regardless of what label South Korea puts on them."
Before the protests, the former actor-turned-journalist, who specialized in covering animal stories, promoted them in tweets.
Founded by DeRose in 1984, Last Chance for Animals hopes to ban human consumption of millions of dogs around the world.
The cultural practice of eating dogs dates back several hundred years in some areas but is especially strong in South Korea and China where the Yulin Dog Meat Festival is an annual summer celebration in Guangxi.
Thus, the in-your-face spectacle of canine corpses held in Presley's arms. Oscar-winner Basinger held a placard reading "Stop Dog Meat" over a disturbing picture of dogs' skinned bodies hanging in a slaughterhouse.
The dead animals used in the Los Angeles protest were acquired from a local animal shelter and were later cremated, according to DeRose.
The reasons why people consume dog meat varies from country to country. In addition to being a cheap source of protein, some cultures believe dog meat has medicinal or sexual power or that it helps reduce the effects of summer heat and humidity.
Raising dogs for consumption, like raising pigs or cattle in the U.S., is a major industry in Korea, featuring thousands of farms where, DeRose and Last Chance assert, dogs are kept in appalling conditions and "tortured" before they are hung and beaten, electrocuted or boiled alive.
"The torture before death is purposeful as it is believed (in myth) the more torture the dog endures, the tastier the meat," according to Last Chance. "Because of the government’s longstanding apathy toward the cruelty, South Korea has become the only country in the world where dogs are bred on large factory farms exclusively for their meat."
The dog-meat trade was an issue before the South Koreans hosted the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, when the government failed to persuade area restaurants from serving dog meat for that two-week period.
As National Geographic reported, most of the restaurants refused, citing customer demand. Last Chance and other activist groups believe recent surveys show that attitudes are changing among younger Koreans, in part due to pressure from the dog-loving west.
In June, a South Korean court ruled the killing of dogs for meat is illegal, in a landmark decision that activists say could pave the way to outlawing the eating of canines.