South Korea’s national assembly has passed a bill to ban the consumption and sale of dog meat, the end of a centuries old practice that has been a subject of debate. The legislation, known as the Special Act on Banning the Consumption and Trading of Dog Meat, is set to take effect in 2027, with a three year grace period for businesses to transition away from the dog meat trade.
Traditionally viewed as a means to boost stamina during the humid Korean summer, the consumption of dog meat has declined over time, with the practice now associated with older generations.
The bill shows a shift in societal attitudes towards animal welfare, as an increasing number of Koreans now consider dogs as integral members of their families.
The legislation reads, “This law is aimed at contributing to realizing the values of animal rights, which pursue respect for life and a harmonious co-existence between humans and animals.”
One factor contributing to the decline of the dog meat industry has been the growing criticism of the methods used in slaughtering dogs, such as electrocution or hanging.
Animal protection groups, including Humane Society International (HSI) Korea, have long advocated for an end to the cruel practices associated with the dog meat trade.
President Yoon Suk Yeol, known for his love of animals and having adopted six dogs and eight cats with First Lady Kim Keon Hee, played a role in garnering support for the ban.
The bill, proposed by the ruling party, received support in the single chamber parliament, with 208 votes in favor and two abstentions after approval by the bipartisan agriculture committee.
The legislation sets a clear stance against the breeding, slaughtering, and trading of dogs for human consumption. Violations of the law could result in up to three years in prison or fines of 30 million won ($22,800).
However, the consumption of dog meat itself will not be illegal, focusing instead on targeting those involved in the industry, such as dog farmers and sellers.
After years of activism and pressure from animal rights groups, both within South Korea and internationally.
Humane Society International (HSI) Korea’s Borami Seo described the bill as a landmark decision that would bring an end to the breeding and killing of dogs for human consumption, sparing millions of dogs from the industry.
A survey released by the Seoul based think tank Animal Welfare Awareness, Research, and Education revealed that over 94% of respondents reported abstaining from consuming dog meat in the past year, with approximately 93% expressing their intention to refrain from doing so in the future.
The changing consumer preferences, with a growing awareness of animal rights, have reshaped public attitudes towards the dog meat industry.
The current bill is to offer compensation to facilitate the transition of businesses away from the trade. This compensation is crucial in addressing concerns by dog farmers and restaurant owners, who argue that the ban would impact their livelihoods and traditions.
In November, approximately 200 dog breeders for consumption staged a rally near the presidential office, urging the abandonment of the proposed legislation.
The Korean Association of Edible Dogs, representing breeders and sellers, contended that the ban would affect 3,500 farms involved in raising 1.5 million dogs, along with 3,000 restaurants.
The bill’s passage faced resistance from some dog farmers and business owners who expressed concerns about the impact on their livelihoods and traditions.
However, the three year grace period and the promise of government support for transitioning to alternative businesses is to address these concerns.
The ban on the dog meat industry in South Korea is a step aligning the country with global perspectives on animal welfare.
While the legislation does not criminalize the consumption of dog meat, it sends a powerful message about the importance of respecting the rights and well-being of animals in a modern society.