South Korea to take dog meat off the menu

The Asian country hopes to end the age-old practice of dog meat consumption by 2027.

A dog rescued from a dog meat farm in Korea
A rescued dog waits for transport at a dog meat farm in South Korea [File:Kim Hong-ji/Reuters]

South Korea aims to ban eating dog meat and put an end to controversy over the ancient custom amid growing awareness of animal protections.

The government and the ruling People Power Party on Friday agreed to introduce before the end of the year an act to end dog meat consumption by 2027, officials said.

The age-old Korean practice of eating dog has long drawn criticism from overseas. But there has also been increasing opposition at home, particularly from the younger generation.

“It is time to put an end to social conflicts and controversies around dog meat consumption through the enactment of a special act to end it,” Yu Eui-dong, policy chief of the People Power Party, said at a meeting with government officials and animal protection activists.

The legislation would ban the breeding of dogs for slaughter as well as dog meat sales, local media reported. A three-year grace period would be matched by financial support for businesses to transition out of the trade.

Yu said the the bill is expected to win bipartisan support, which should allow it to sail through parliament.

Agriculture Minister Chung Hwang-keun told the meeting the government would implement a ban quickly and provide the maximum possible support for those in the dog meat industry to close their businesses.

First lady Kim Keon-hee has been a vocal critic of dog meat consumption, and along with her husband, President Yoon Suk-yeol, has adopted stray dogs.

Anti-dog meat bills have failed in the past because of protests by those involved in the industry and concern about the livelihoods of farmers and restaurant owners.

Eating dog meat is much less common than it used to be, but it is still favoured by some older people. The meat continues to be served in some restaurants.

Animal protection groups welcomed the prospect of a ban. “A dream come true for all of us who have campaigned so hard to end this cruelty,” Humane Society International said in a statement.

But representatives of a national dog meat farmers association expressed outrage, calling the move “threatening” to their right to live.

South Korea has about 1,150 dog-breeding farms, 34 slaughter houses and 219 dog meat distributors in the country, according to government data. About 1,600 restaurants serve dog meat.

A Gallup Korea poll last year showed 64 percent of South Koreans opposed dog meat consumption. The survey found 8 percent of respondents had eaten dog within the past year, down from 27 percent in 2015.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies