South Korea bans consumption of dogmeat
South Korea’s parliament voted on Tuesday to ban the sale and consumption of dog meat, which was once a widespread practice in the East Asian country.
President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon Hee, who owns six dogs and eight cats, have been vocal advocates of the ban since it was first proposed in September. In Tuesday’s vote, 208 out of 300 lawmakers voted in favor, while two abstained.
“I never thought I would see in my lifetime a ban on the cruel dog meat industry in South Korea, but this historic win for animals is testament to the passion and determination of our animal protection movement,” JungAh Chae, the executive director of Humane Society International Korea, said in a statement after the vote, calling it “history in the making.”
“While my heart breaks for all the millions of dogs for whom this change has come too late, I am overjoyed that South Korea can now close this miserable chapter in our history and embrace a dog-friendly future,” Chae added.
The law bans the raising, slaughter and sale of dog meat for human consumption starting in 2027. Penalties for violators include fines of up to 30 million won ($22,800) or up to three years in prison. There is no penalty for consumption.
Koreans used to consume dog meat to cope with the summer humidity, according to Reuters, but have increasingly moved away from the tradition as the animals have come to be viewed as family pets, not food.
A survey released on Monday showed that 94% of respondents had not eaten dog in the past year, and 93% said they did not intend to do so in the future. It was conducted by the Seoul-based think-tank Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education.
Breeders and sellers from the Korean Association of Edible Dogs have said that the ban will affect 3,000 restaurants and about 3,500 farms raising approximately 1.5 million dogs. April 2022 figures from the Agriculture Ministry put those numbers at 1,600 restaurants, 1,100 farms and 570,000 dogs.
At a protest in December, dog farmers threatened to release two million canines if the government proceeded with the ban. Ju Yeong-bong, head of the Korea Dog Meat Farmers’ Association, argued at the time that it was ”a violent act of barbarism to deprive individuals of their right to eat.”
The government sought to allay the concerns of dog farmers by offering a grace period and compensation so they could switch careers. Animal rights activists have opposed this, arguing that the farmers would demand “unrealistically high” sums. Meanwhile, the farmers said both they and their main customers are people over 60, and are too old to change their ways or start a new business.