The country’s centuries-old practice of eating dog meat comes to an end
South Korea’s parliament has passed legislation to put an end to the consumption and trade of dog meat.
“This is history in the making,” animal protection group Humane Society International Korea’s Executive Director Chae Jung-ah said. “We have reached the tipping point where most Korean citizens reject eating dogs and want to see this suffering consigned to the history books.”
Indeed, the bill’s passage reflects changing attitudes toward the consumption of dog meat in South Korea. While the practice has a long history in the country, it has become increasingly unpopular in recent years, particularly among younger generations.
According to a survey by Seoul-based think-tank Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education, over 94% of South Korean citizens had not eaten dog meat for the past year; around 93% say they would not do so in the future either.
At the same time, pet ownership among South Koreans has increased by 16% between 2010 and 2022, according to government data, with every fourth household in South Korea now owning a pet dog.
South Korea has also been under increasing pressure from the international community to ban the trade of dog meat, with many countries and organizations condemning the practice as cruel and inhumane.
The new law is a significant victory for animal rights activists, who have been campaigning for years to end the dog meat trade.
“The bill would see an end to the breeding and killing of dogs for human consumption. We have reached a pivotal point to spare millions of dogs from this cruel industry,” Humane Society International Korea’s Borami Seo said.
The dog meat trade ban
The bill was first introduced, by the ruling party, in November 2023 at the National Assembly. It was approved on January 9, 2024, with an absolute majority: 208 lawmakers voted in favor of it, and only two abstained.
It will take effect after a three-year grace period. Once it does, anyone who slaughters dogs to make meat for human consumption will either face three years in prison or have to pay a fine of up to KRW 30 million ($22,800).
Breeding dogs for consumption as well as transporting, storing, or selling dog meat will also be punishable with time in prison or a fine, albeit lower than for slaughtering.
While the bill aims to “eradicate the consumption of dogs,” it does not include penalties for eating dog meat.
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Dog meat industry in South Korea
Naturally, the ban on dog meat is expected to have a significant impact on the dog meat industry in South Korea. While the consumption of dog meat has been declining in recent years, it is still a significant industry in the country.
According to the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, as of April 2022, around 1,100 farms were breeding 570,000 dogs to be served at 1,600 restaurants.
The Korean Association of Edible Dogs, a coalition of breeders and sellers, says the ban will affect 3,500 farms that are raising 1.5 million dogs as well as 3,000 restaurants.
The ban is also expected to have a significant impact on the country’s international reputation. South Korea has been criticized in the past for its treatment of animals, and the new law is seen as a positive step toward improving the country’s image.
Hopefully, South Korea’s ban will set a precedent for other countries in the region to follow.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Dogs in cages at the Moran Market in Seongnam, South Korea. Featured Photo Credit: Kim Bartlett/Animal People Forum/CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED.