South Korea takes dog meat off the menu

The bill will provide compensation so that businesses can move out of the trade, though its dog meat consumption is now rare.

Yang Man-suk eats a dog meat broth or "Bosintang" at a restaurant in Hwaseong
Yang Man-suk eats a dog meat broth, or Bosintang, at a restaurant in Hwaseong, South Korea, November 21, 2023 [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

South Korea’s parliament has passed a bill to outlaw the trade in dog meat.

The bill, passed on Tuesday, aims to shutter a centuries-old practice. In recent years, Koreans have shunned the meat as concern over animal rights has grown.

The bill was passed in a near-unanimous vote. Overall, there were 208 votes in favour and just two abstentions in the vote in the single-chamber parliament, which came after the bipartisan agriculture committee had approved it on Monday.

The legislation, which will ban the breeding, selling and slaughtering of dogs for their meat from 2027, will go into effect once endorsed by the Cabinet Council and signed by President Yoon Suk-yeol, moves that are considered formalities.

Following the three-year grace period, the breeding and slaughtering of dogs to produce meat for human consumption will be punishable by up to three years in prison or up to 30 million won ($22,800) in fines. The bill does not stipulate any penalties for consuming dog meat.

Falling consumption

The bill reflects a sharp drop in consumption amid changing trends in South Korea, although representatives of the trade have sought for years to block a ban.

Animal welfare activists say dogs are electrocuted or hanged when slaughtered, though breeders and traders say slaughtering has become more humane in recent years.

“We have reached a pivotal point to spare millions of dogs from this cruel industry,” said Borami Seo of Humane Society International Korea, an animal protection group.

Support for the ban has blossomed under President Yoon, who has adopted six dogs and eight cats, and been public about his opposition to dog meat consumption. First lady Kim Keon-hee has also been a vocal critic.

While dog meat was once viewed as a way to improve stamina in the humid Korean summer, it has grown increasingly rare and is now mostly just eaten by older people.

In a survey released Monday by Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education (AWARE), a Seoul-based think tank, 94 percent of respondents said they had not eaten dog meat for the past year and 93 percent said they do not plan to in the future.

Still, past attempts to pass such legislation have failed due to industry protests.

The Korean Association of Edible Dogs, a coalition of breeders and sellers, said the ban will affect 3,500 farms raising 1.5 million dogs, as well as 3,000 restaurants.

The bill, therefore, seeks to provide compensation so that businesses can move out of the trade.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, as of April 2022, some 1,100 farms were breeding 570,000 dogs to be served at around 1,600 restaurants.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies