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South Korea Bans Dog Meat Trade

Written by aslmad.yaz

In an unanimous approval of 208 to 0, South Korea bans the dog meat trade. On January 9, 2023, the South Korean National Assembly passed a bill prohibiting the production and sale of dog meat, ending the controversial centuries-old practice amid growing support for animal welfare (via The Guardian). Animal rights activists and bill proponents celebrated the South Korean dog meat ban as a monumental victory for animals.

Declining popularity of dog meat

Once thought to improve fatigue during the humid Korean summers, dog meat lost popularity as more South Koreans considered dogs family pets. Dog meat consumption also lost popularity due to growing criticism of slaughter practices and inhumane treatment and conditions. According to Humane Society International Korea, a million dogs are raised and killed in South Korea each year for human consumption.

In a Gallup Korea survey conducted last year (per Reuters), nearly two-thirds of participants said they were against eating dog meat. Only 8% said they had consumed dog meat the previous year—a decrease from 27% in 2015. Most South Koreans no longer eat dog meat, and more than half wanted production outlawed.

More recently, 94% of respondents to a study conducted this week by the Seoul-based institute Animal Welfare Awareness, Research, and Education stated they had not eaten dog meat in the previous year. Additionally, 93% said they would not do so in the future (via The Guardian).

A recent Nielsen-HSI poll also revealed that the majority of South Koreans have no intentions of consuming dog meat, and a significant proportion supports the implementation of a ban on the practice. According to Humane Society International, “animal cruelty is the top reason for those supporting a ban (53%) with almost 50% (49.7%) citing unsanitary conditions of dog meat production as the main motivator.”

Dog meat ban opponents scuffled with police

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 30: Dogs farmers scuffle with police officers during a protest, demanding the government scrap plans to pass a bill to enforce a ban on the consumption of dog meat, in front of Presidential office on November 30, 2023 in Seoul, South Korea. The farmers argued that banning the controversial dog meat from menus across the country would deprive them of their livelihoods. About a week ago, when the South Korean government announced its plan to introduce a ban on dog meat, animal rights organisations celebrated. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Chung Sung-Jun / Staff | Getty Images News)

As an indication of the ongoing, contentious discussion surrounding the ban, some dog farmers announced their intention to contest the constitutionality of the bill. On November 30, Time reported some 200 dog meat farmers, industry representatives, and restaurant owners staged protests outside parliament, urging the government to abandon their plans for the ban. To that end, some protestors even threatened to release 2 million dogs near government landmarks as a statement of their opposition. 

“If you ask how big the opposition from farmers is, we’re talking about releasing 2 million dogs we’re raising,” Joo Young-bong, the head of the Korean Dog Meat Farmers’ Association, said. Joo further stated that politicians had no right to close an industry or determine what people eat. Police arrested Joo along with two other protestors after a scuffle at a protest rally, Reuters reported.

Government unanimously approves bill

Despite protests and subsequent assurances from dog meat traders claiming to have improved the humaneness of the slaughtering procedure, the National Assembly overwhelmingly approved the bill by a 208 to 0 vote. After approval by the Cabinet Council and a signature by President Yoon Suk Yeol, the bill will become law.

Per AP News, the South Korean dog meat ban outlaws the breeding, slaughter, and sale of dog meat for human consumption. The bill also includes a three-year grace period ending in 2027. Additionally, violators of the bill would face sentences of two to three years in prison or a fine of 30 million South Korean won, equivalent to $22,800. There are no sanctions for consuming dog meat.

“This law is aimed at contributing to realizing the values of animal rights, which pursue respect for life and a harmonious co-existence between humans and animals,” the legislation states.

The bill also supports dog farmers and other industry participants when they close their doors and move to other ventures. Government representatives, farmers, and animal rights advocates will meet to settle on the specifics of the compensation package. The package hopes to address concerns from the ban’s opponents about transitioning out of the dog meat trade.

“South Korea is rapidly moving towards a society focusing on the welfare of animals, and the time is now for the South Korean government to act to resolve the problems of canine consumption,” Agriculture Minister Song Mi-ryung said.

Activists celebrate as South Korea bans dog meat

South Korean lawmaker Han Jeong-ae (centre L) celebrates with animal rights activists during a rally welcoming a bill banning dog meat trade at the National Assembly in Seoul on January 9, 2024. South Korea's parliament on January 9, passed a bill banning breeding, slaughtering and selling dogs for their meat, a traditional practice that activists have long called an embarrassment for the country. Official support for a ban has grown under President Yoon, a self-professed animal lover who has adopted several stray dogs and cats with First Lady Kim -- who is herself a vocal critic of dog meat consumption. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: JUNG YEON-JE / Contributor | Getty Images)

“This is history in the making,” JungAh Chae, the executive director of Humane Society International Korea, said in a statement (via NBC News). “We reached a tipping point where most Korean citizens reject eating dogs and want to see this suffering consigned to the history books, and today our policymakers have acted decisively to make that a reality,” JungAh Chae added.

The president of the South Korean animal welfare organization Catch Dog, Jeung Seung-yong, also expressed joy, stating that decades of advocacy were required to get the ban. Activists have long accused the industry of being inhumane, involving the cruel treatment, transportation, and slaughter methods of dogs, often in unsanitary conditions. Additionally, the dog meat trade involves the theft and illegal trade of pets.

“Until now, about 100 small and large South Korean advocate groups worked together to increase awareness about the utterly cruel ways dogs, including stolen ones, were killed for eating,” said Jeung. Catch Dog has rescued about 5,000 dogs and shut down 250 dog farms since it was founded in 2019.

“I never thought I would see in my lifetime a ban on the cruel dog meat industry in South Korea,” she added. “This historic win for animals is testament to the passion and determination of our animal protection movement.

President Yoon Suk-yeol, an animal lover who has adopted multiple dogs and cats with his wife Kim Keon-hee, who has also criticized the sector, has been a supportive force behind the push to make the sale of dog meat illegal. With South Korea’s dog meat trade ban, the country joins India, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Taiwan in prohibiting the trafficking of dog meat.

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