SOUTH KOREA: South Korea has taken a significant step to end the controversial practice of consuming dogs by passing a special bill in the National Assembly on Tuesday (9 Jan).
This marked a rare moment of political unity, as the bill received unanimous approval with a 208-0 vote during a plenary session, with two abstentions.
Scheduled to take effect in 2027, the bill strictly prohibits the raising or butchering of dogs for human consumption, as well as the distribution or sale of dog meat.
Offenders who violate this law by raising and butchering dogs may face a maximum three-year prison term or a fine of up to 30 million won (US$22,768).
Similarly, those involved in distributing dog meat could be sentenced to up to two years in prison or fined a maximum of 20 million won.
Stakeholders in the dog meat industry, including farmers, retailers, and restaurant owners, are required to register their businesses by the first half of 2024.
They must also submit plans to local authorities outlining the steps to gradually downsize and close down their establishments.
To support the transition away from the dog meat industry, registered stakeholders will receive government assistance to pursue more humane professions, such as livestock breeding and agriculture.
The special act further prohibits any future breeding or the establishment of new dog meat facilities.
This comprehensive approach aims to bring about positive change and a gradual phasing out of the dog meat industry in Korea.
The complex landscape of dog meat consumption in South Korea
For 46 years, the sale and consumption of dog meat in South Korea have existed in legal gray areas.
The consumption of dogs as food became illegal in 1978 with the revision of the Food Sanitation Act, which removed canines from the list of livestock.
Despite this, dog farming has remained legal under the Livestock Industry Act, categorizing dogs as livestock.
Simultaneously, the Livestock Products Sanitary Control Act lacks regulations on the butchering and retailing of dog meat.
The absence of clear legal guidelines has allowed the practice of dog meat consumption to persist.
However, a significant shift in public perception regarding animal welfare has played a crucial role in diminishing the controversial practice.
This cultural change gained momentum during global events.
These occasions drew consistent scrutiny and criticism from foreign media and animal rights groups, contributing to the declining acceptance of dog meat consumption.
A recent survey by the government revealed that there are 1,156 dog farms in Korea raising over 520,000 dogs for meat consumption.
Additionally, 1,666 restaurants nationwide sell over 388,000 dogs for consumption each year.
Most of these dogs endure harsh conditions, being born and raised in filthy and rusty cages, forced to consume leftover food.
They are often slaughtered with an electric iron skewer shortly after reaching adulthood, according to local animal advocacy groups.
Younger generation’s shift in attitudes sparks momentum towards banning dog meat in South Korea
The discussion surrounding the prohibition of dog meat has been slow for an extended period, but the rapidly changing perspectives of the younger generation on dogs and animal rights have initiated a shift.
As more young people raise dogs and engage in animal welfare, their aversion to dog meat has grown, leading to a decline in its actual demand.
This change in perception is also reflected in a notable decrease in the number of dog farms in Korea, dropping from 10,000 in the early 2010s to approximately 3,000, as reported by the Korea Meat and Dog Association.
Unlike neighboring Asian countries such as Taiwan, the Philippines, and Singapore, which have already banned the practice of consuming dog meat, Korea had persisted as one of the last countries where dogs were intensively farmed for human consumption.
A recent survey by the local animal welfare research group AWARE revealed that a staggering 93.4 percent of Koreans have no intention of consuming dog meat in the future.
Furthermore, 82.3 percent of respondents expressed support for the ban on the dog meat trade.
The ban is viewed as a significant turning point in Korea’s stance on animal protection.
Lee Sang-kyung, campaign manager of Humane Society International Korea, expressed hope that the prohibition would not only eliminate the distressing practice of consuming dogs but also raise awareness about the plight of other factory-farmed animals, enduring misery solely for human consumption.
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