South Korea bans production, sale of dog meat

South Korea’s parliament has achieved a significant milestone by voting to prohibit the production and sale of dog meat, a decision celebrated by animal welfare campaigners as a “historic victory.” The national assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of banning the breeding, butchery, distribution, and sale of dogs for their meat, responding to years of domestic and international pressure. Although the law does not criminalize consumption, it effectively marks the end of the practice, which some believe has roots stretching back centuries.

The ban, endorsed with 208 votes in support and two abstentions, is set to take effect in 2027 after a three-year grace period. Violators could face up to three years in prison or a maximum fine of 30 million won (£17,900). The legislation includes compensation packages to assist businesses in transitioning out of the dog meat industry.

Dog meat, often served as part of a stew for tenderness, was historically considered a remedy for fatigue during hot summers. However, consumption has significantly declined, especially among younger South Koreans who view dogs as family pets. A recent survey by the Seoul-based think tank Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education revealed that over 94% of respondents had not consumed dog meat in the past year, and 93% expressed a refusal to eat it in the future.

Despite the decrease in consumption, around 1,150 farms continue to breed dogs for meat, and 1,600 restaurants sell dog meat dishes in South Korea, according to the agriculture ministry. Animal welfare activists have long criticized the industry for its cruelty, citing practices such as electrocution or hanging during slaughter. While some traders claimed to have improved the slaughtering process, campaigners persisted in their efforts.

JungAh Chae, the executive director of Humane Society International/Korea, hailed the decision as “history in the making,” expressing joy at the prospect of South Korea moving towards a dog-friendly future. The movement against the dog meat industry gained momentum under President Yoon Suk-yeol, an animal lover who has adopted several dogs and cats and has criticized the industry along with his wife, Kim Keon-hee.

President Yoon Suk-yeol’s commitment to animal welfare has played a pivotal role in advancing the movement against the dog meat industry. Having personally adopted several dogs and cats, President Yoon, along with his wife Kim Keon-hee, has openly criticized the industry, aligning himself with the growing sentiment within South Korea that rejects the consumption of dog meat.

The decision to ban the production and sale of dog meat reflects a societal shift, with the majority of South Koreans increasingly viewing dogs as companions rather than sources of food. This cultural transformation, coupled with the tireless efforts of animal rights activists, has led to a turning point in the nation’s perspective on the treatment of animals.

While the ban doesn’t criminalize the consumption of dog meat, it sends a strong signal against the industry as a whole. The inclusion of a three-year grace period and compensation packages for affected businesses reflects a balanced approach, acknowledging the need for a gradual transition away from the dog meat trade.

The legislation’s passage is particularly significant given the long history of dog meat consumption in South Korea. The decision reflects a growing global awareness of animal rights and the humane treatment of animals, as evidenced by the international pressure that has influenced this legislative change.

Humane Society International/Korea’s JungAh Chae expressed both satisfaction and sadness, acknowledging that, while the decision has come too late for millions of dogs, it marks the closing of a “miserable chapter” in South Korea’s history. The hope is that this move will inspire other nations to reevaluate their stance on the consumption of dog meat and promote more compassionate practices.

As South Korea embraces a more dog-friendly future, the ban on dog meat production and sale represents not only a victory for animal welfare but also a symbol of societal progress towards more ethical and humane treatment of animals.

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