South Korea Votes for Historic Ban on Dog Meat Industry
An End to Centuries-Old Tradition
In a groundbreaking decision, South Korea’s parliament has voted overwhelmingly to prohibit the dog meat industry within the nation by 2027.
This momentous bill, passed on Tuesday, encompasses a comprehensive ban on the slaughter of dogs for consumption, as well as the distribution and sale of dog meat.
For centuries, consuming dog meat has been a longstanding tradition in South Korea, with some believing it provided increased energy, particularly during the sweltering summer months.
However, shifting societal norms, especially among younger generations, have led to a significant decline in this practice. Historically, dogs were more frequently served during times of economic hardship or conflict when a readily available and inexpensive source of protein was in demand.
A Turning Tide
The tide began to turn as more Koreans embraced pet ownership, raising concerns about the treatment and slaughter of dogs in the meat trade.
Notably, many of the dogs bred for consumption endured inhumane methods of euthanasia, such as electrocution or hanging. President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife, who are avid pet owners, have openly expressed their disapproval of the dog meat industry.
Beyond South Korea, the consumption of dog meat has also persisted in countries like Vietnam and China, resulting in an estimated 30 million dogs slaughtered annually across Asia, as reported by the animal welfare charity Humane Society International.
Nevertheless, dog meat has been banned in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, as well as in the cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai in mainland China, and various regions of Cambodia and Indonesia.
While dog meat consumption was never a widespread practice in the United States, the slaughtering of dogs and cats for human consumption was officially prohibited just over five years ago with the signing of the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act as part of the 2018 Farm Bill.
A Resounding Victory
South Korea’s historic legislation, passed by an overwhelming 208 votes with only two abstentions, grants a three-year transition period for those currently employed in the dog meat industry, including breeders and butchers, to find alternative sources of income.
Beyond 2027, violating the law may result in up to three years of imprisonment or fines reaching 30 million won ($22,800). The focus of the bill is squarely on eradicating the industry itself, not penalizing consumers.
While animal activists have long protested the dog meat trade in South Korea, there has been resistance from within the industry. In November, approximately 200 dog breeders rallied in opposition to the bill.
The country’s agriculture ministry estimated that as of April 2022, there were around 1,100 dog farms breeding approximately 570,000 dogs annually for consumption at roughly 1,600 restaurants.
Nonetheless, the industry was already dwindling, with primarily older Koreans continuing to consume dog meat. A recent survey conducted by Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education, a Seoul-based think tank, revealed that over 94 percent of respondents had not eaten dog meat in the past year, and approximately 93 percent had no intentions of doing so in the future.
Joo Yeong-bong, a dog farmer, expressed his disappointment, stating, “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… [It’s] an infringement of people’s freedom to eat what they like.”
Local governments will be responsible for assisting business owners in transitioning away from the dog meat trade.
Jung Ah Chae, the executive director of the Humane Society in South Korea, conveyed her surprise at witnessing the ban in her lifetime, stating, “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.”
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