South Korea passes law banning dog meat trade

Dogs caged in a dog meat farm in South Korea

South Korea has passed a new law, which aims to end the slaughter and selling of dogs for their meat by 2027.

The law aims to end the centuries-old practice of eating dog meat.

Dog meat has fallen out of favour with diners over the past few decades. Young people especially shun it.

Under the law, raising or slaughtering dogs for consumption will be banned, as will distributing or selling dog meat. Those found guilty of doing so could be sent to jail.

Those butchering dogs could face up to three years in prison, while those who raise dogs for meat or sell dog meat could serve a maximum of two years. However, the consumption of dog meat itself will not be illegal.

The new legislation will come into effect in three years’ time, giving farmers and restaurant owners time to find alternative sources of employment and income. They will have to submit a plan to phase out their businesses to their local authorities.

The government has promised to fully support dog meat farmers, butchers and restaurant owners, whose businesses will be forced to close, though the details of what compensation will be offered have yet to be worked through.

According to government statistics, South Korea had around 1,600 dog meat restaurants and 1,150 dog farms in 2023.

Dog meat stew, called “boshintang”, is considered a delicacy among some older South Koreans, but the meat is no longer popular with young people.

Photos of South Korean president, Yoon Seok-yeol, and his dog, are displayed in his office
Image caption, Current President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife own six dogs and have called for a ban on dog meat

According to a Gallup poll last year, only 8% of people said they had tried dog meat in the past 12 months, down from 27% in 2015. Less than a fifth of those polled said they supported the consumption of the meat.

Previous governments, dating back to the 1980s, have pledged to ban dog meat, but failed to make progress. The current President Yoon Suk Yeol and the First Lady Kim Keon Hee are known animal lovers. The couple owns six dogs, and Ms Kim has called for the practice of eating dogs to end.

Animal rights groups, which have long been pushing for the ban, praised the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.

Jung Ah Chae, the executive director of the Humane Society in Korea, said she was surprised to see the ban in her lifetime. “While my heart breaks for all the millions of dogs for whom this change has come too late, I am overjoyed that South Korea can now close this miserable chapter in our history and embrace a dog friendly future”, she said.

Dog meat farmers had campaigned against the ban. They argued that, given the declining popularity among young people, the practice should be allowed to die out naturally over time. Many farmers and restaurateurs are elderly and said it would be difficult for them to switch livelihoods so late in life.

One dog farmer, Joo Yeong-bong, told the BBC the industry was in despair.

“In 10 years, the industry would have disappeared. We’re in our 60s and 70s and now we have no choice but to lose our livelihoods”, he said, adding that this was “an infringement of people’s freedom to eat what they like”. – BBC

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