South Korea’s parliament has approved a bill to prohibit the consumption and sale of dog meat, marking a significant step towards ending the controversial practice that has been in existence for centuries. The move comes as public support for animal welfare continues to grow.
In the past, eating dog meat was believed to boost stamina during the hot Korean summers. However, the practice has become increasingly uncommon, mainly limited to older individuals and specific restaurants.
This shift is attributed to more Koreans considering dogs as beloved family pets and the mounting criticism surrounding the inhumane methods used to slaughter the dogs.
Step Towards Banning Dog Meat Consumption
Animal rights activists assert that most dogs are electrocuted or hanged during the slaughtering process for meat. However, breeders and traders argue that efforts have been made to improve the humaneness of the slaughtering methods.
President Yoon Suk Yeol, an animal lover who owns six dogs and eight cats along with his wife, first lady Kim Keon Hee, has played a significant role in garnering support for the ban. Kim Keon Hee has been an outspoken critic of dog meat consumption.
The number of pet owners in South Korea has also risen over the years. According to government data, one in four Korean households owned a pet dog in 2022, compared to 16% in 2010.
The bill, proposed by the ruling party and backed by rare bipartisan support, received an overwhelming 208 votes in favor with two abstentions in the single-chamber parliament.
The legislation, which aims to “eradicate the consumption of dogs,” will come into effect after a three-year grace period.
Breeding and slaughtering dogs for human consumption will be punishable by up to three years in prison or fines of up to 30 million won ($22,800). However, the bill does not specify penalties for consuming dog meat itself.
Chae Jung-ah, the executive director of Humane Society International Korea, an animal protection group, described this development as a historic moment.
She believes that the majority of Korean citizens now reject the consumption of dogs and wish to see an end to the suffering associated with this practice.
According to a recent survey conducted by Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education, a Seoul-based think tank, the majority of respondents, approximately 94%, stated that they have not consumed dog meat in the past year.
Furthermore, about 93% of the participants expressed their intention to abstain from consuming dog meat in the future.
While previous polls have indicated support for the ban at around 56%, the implementation of such measures has faced challenges in the past due to industry protests.
However, the current bill aims to address this issue by offering compensation to businesses involved in the trade, allowing them to transition out of the industry.
Challenges to Ban on Dog Meat Industry in South Korea: Legal Opposition and Compensation Demands
Son Won-hak, an official from the Korean Association of Edible Dogs, which represents breeders and sellers, has announced their intention to challenge the law’s legitimacy in the country’s Constitutional Court. However, specific details regarding their plans were not provided.
Prior to the bill’s passing, the association outlined their demands for compensation in the event that the law is enacted.
They are seeking a minimum of 2 million won ($1,520) per dog to cover losses over the next five years, in addition to expenses related to facilities that will become obsolete.
The agriculture ministry has stated that it will engage in consultations with relevant businesses to ensure their stable operation and provide maximum support within a reasonable range.
According to the ministry’s estimates as of April 2022, there are approximately 1,100 farms breeding 570,000 dogs for consumption in around 1,600 restaurants.
The farmers’ association has expressed concerns about the ban’s impact on approximately 3,500 farms that raise 1.5 million dogs, as well as 3,000 restaurants involved in the dog meat trade.