South Korea is set to ban the distribution and sale of dogmeat, after an emphatic vote in parliament reflecting a countrywide shift in attitude towards the traditional practice of eating dog.
Eaten mainly by older people
Customarily eaten in hard times and by as a “peasant food”, or a cheap and easy to produce way to keep energy levels up during humid Korean summers, eating dog is now a more and more unusual choice in South Korea, with such dishes served only at specific restaurants and eaten mainly by an older demographic.
Passed by The National Assembly with a sweeping 208-0 vote, the new bipartisan law awaits formal approval by the Cabinet and President. It reflects a change of heart across the country, as more people keep pets and become animal activists. Concerns about animal welfare and the conditions under which creatures are raised and slaughtered have dominated emotive discussions. Most dogs are electrocuted or hanged when slaughtered for meat.
High profile support
The First Lady Kim Keon Hee, an animal lover and owner of six dogs, has shown high profile support for the cause and made a point of visiting an animal protection society during December’s presidential state visit to The Netherlands.
Between 2005 to 2014, the number of Seoul restaurants serving dog fell by 40%. And in 2022 Gallop Korea survey, 64% of respondents said they were against eating dog meat. Just 8% of people said they had done so in the last year (down from 27% in 2015).
Target the industry, not the individual
Under the new legislation passed by parliament on Tuesday, food products made or processed with dog ingredients would be prohibited. This means the individual consumer of dog meat would not face a penalty.
Instead the law would target the industrial aspects of the practice instead. Slaughtering a dog for food could attract a three-year jail sentence or a 30 million Korean won fine. Breeding, or knowingly transporting or selling the animals will also result in penalties.
Three-year grace period
There are 1,100 dog farms breeding a total of around half a million dogs that will be affected, says the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, though farmers associations put the figure about three times higher and say the government is “threatening to trample” the industry.
The farmers will have a three-year amnesty period to comply and receive help and compensation to help them do so, but the Korean Dog Meat Association, said in a press release, “No one has the right to rob 10 million (dog meat consumers) of their right to food and the right to survival of 1 million livestock dog farmers and workers.”