In a landmark decision, South Korea’s parliament has unanimously passed a bill aimed at putting an end to the breeding, slaughtering, and selling of dogs for their meat, a practice deeply rooted in the country’s traditions. The bill passed with a resounding 208-0 vote and is set to take effect after a three-year grace period and final approval from President Yoon Suk Yeol.
Under the new legislation, individuals involved in breeding, selling, or slaughtering dogs for their meat may face severe penalties, including up to three years in prison or fines amounting to 30 million won ($23,000).
While dog meat has long been a part of South Korean culinary culture, recent years have witnessed a significant decline in consumption. The shift is attributed to changing attitudes, with younger, urban South Koreans increasingly viewing the practice as taboo. The surge in pet ownership and mounting pressure from animal rights activists have also played a crucial role in influencing public opinion.
President Yoon Suk Yeol, a self-proclaimed animal lover who has adopted several stray dogs and cats alongside First Lady Kim Keon Hee, has expressed support for banning the controversial practice. The First Lady herself is a vocal critic of dog meat consumption.
Animal rights activists welcomed the historic decision, hailing it as “history in the making.” JungAh Chae, executive director of Humane Society International/Korea, expressed optimism, stating, “We reached a tipping point where most Korean citizens reject eating dogs, and today our policymakers have acted decisively to make that a reality.”
A survey conducted by the Seoul-based think tank Animal Welfare Awareness, Research, and Education revealed that nine out of 10 people in South Korea indicated they would not eat dog meat in the future.
Despite previous challenges and opposition from dog farmers, the new law addresses concerns by providing compensation for businesses transitioning out of the dog meat trade. Approximately 1,100 dog farms across the country breed hundreds of thousands of dogs annually for consumption in restaurants.
While dog meat is traditionally consumed as a summertime delicacy in South Korea, the new legislation signifies a progressive shift towards a more compassionate and dog-friendly future. The country’s current animal protection law primarily focuses on preventing cruel slaughter but does not explicitly ban consumption. Nonetheless, authorities have used existing laws to crack down on dog farms and restaurants, especially during international events like the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.