In a momentous decision that marks a significant shift in cultural practices, South Korea's parliament has passed a bill to outlaw the slaughter of dogs for food and the sale of dog meat by 2027. The bill, which passed with an overwhelming majority of 208 votes and two abstentions, reflects a changing societal attitude towards a centuries-old tradition.
Historically, consuming dog meat in South Korea was believed to boost energy during the sweltering summer months. However, this practice has seen a steady decline in popularity, especially among the younger generations. The shift in perspective is partly attributed to the increasing number of Koreans keeping pet dogs and growing awareness of animal rights.
The controversial dog meat trade has long been a subject of criticism, primarily due to the inhumane methods used in slaughtering dogs, including electrocution and hanging. President Yoon Suk Yeol, a dog owner himself with six pet dogs, has previously expressed opposition to the dog meat industry.
The new law, which was first approved by the bipartisan agriculture committee, introduces a three-year grace period to allow those involved in the dog meat industry, such as breeders and butchers, to transition to other forms of employment. From 2027, violations of the law will attract severe penalties, including up to three years in prison or fines up to 30 million won ($22,800).
The legislation follows years of protests and campaigns by animal rights activists. Despite this victory for animal welfare, the bill faced some resistance from industry stakeholders. In November, about 200 dog breeders rallied against the proposed ban. As of April 2022, it's estimated that around 1,100 farms in South Korea breed approximately 570,000 dogs annually, supplying about 1,600 restaurants.
This gradual shift away from dog meat consumption is evident in recent surveys. According to data from Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education, a Seoul-based think tank, over 94% of respondents hadn't eaten dog meat in the past year, and approximately 93% stated they would not do so in the future.
Jung Ah Chae, the executive director of the Humane Society in Korea, expressed her joy and surprise at witnessing the ban within her lifetime. She remarked, "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."