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Dog meat production and sales will soon become illegal in South Korea

Dog meat production and sales will soon become illegal in South Korea
Animal rights activists at a rally in support of the dog meat ban bill, in Seoul, South Korea, 9 January 2024   -  
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Ahn Young-joon/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

South Korea

South Korea's parliament passed a historic ban on the production and sale of dog meat on Tuesday, as calls for the ban grew amid concerns over animal rights and the dog's international image.

Some angry dog ​​breeders said they planned to challenge the constitutionality of the bill and hold protest rallies, a sign that debate over the ban remains heated.

After a three-year grace period, the bill will make the slaughter, breeding and sale of dog meat for human consumption illegal from 2027 and punishable by two to three years in prison. It does not provide for any sanctions for the consumption of dog meat.

Eating dog meat, a centuries-old practice on the Korean Peninsula is neither explicitly prohibited nor legalized in South Korea. It has long been considered a source of endurance during hot summer days. 

Recent surveys show that more than half of South Koreans want a ban on dog meat and a majority no longer eat it. However, one in three South Koreans remains opposed to a ban, even if they do not consume it.

The National Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 208 to 0. It will become law after being approved by the Council of Ministers and signed by President Yoon Suk Yeo l, formalities are considered as such since his government supports the ban.

“This law aims to contribute to the realization of the values ​​of animal rights, which aim at respect for life and harmonious coexistence between humans and animals,” indicates the text.

The bill helps dog breeders and others in the industry shut down their operations and transition to alternatives. The details must be clarified by officials, breeders, experts and animal rights activists.

Dozens of animal rights activists gathered at the National Assembly to celebrate the passage of the bill. They carried large photos of dogs, chanted slogans and held signs that read "Dog meat-free Korea is coming. "

The Humane Society International called the law's passage "history in the making. "

“I never thought I would see a ban on South Korea's cruel dog meat industry in my lifetime, but this historic victory for animals is a testament to the passion and determination of our animal protection movement," said JungAh Chae, general manager of HSI's Korean office.

Dogs are also eaten in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, North Korea and some African countries. However, South Korea's dog meat industry has attracted attention because of the country's reputation as a cultural and economic powerhouse. 

It is also the only country to have dog breeders on an industrial scale. Most South Korean farms raise about 500 dogs, but one, visited by The Associated Press in July, had about 7,000.

Ranchers were extremely upset by the passage of the bill. “This is a clear case of state violence, as they infringe on our freedom to choose our profession. We cannot stand idly by,” says Son Won Hak, a farmer and former head of a farmers association.

Son Won Hak claims that the dog breeders were going to file a petition with the Constitutional Court of Korea and organize protests. He added that farmers would meet on Wednesday to discuss further action.

There is no reliable official data on the exact size of the dog meat industry in South Korea. Campaigners and farmers say hundreds of thousands of dogs are slaughtered for meat every year.

The campaign against dog meat has received a huge boost from the country's First Lady, Kim Keon Hee, who has repeatedly expressed support for a ban. She was the subject of harsh criticism and crude insults during farmers' protests.

The legislation is not clear on how dog breeders and others in the industry will be supported. Agriculture Minister Song Mi-ryung said Tuesday the government will strive to formulate reasonable aid packages for them.

Ju Yeongbong, an official with the breeders' association, said most breeders are between 60 and 80 years old and hope to continue their business until the elderly, their main customers, die. 

However, Ju said the legislation would "rob them of their right to live" because it would ultimately only offer assistance with dismantling their facilities and for transitions, with no compensation for abandoning their dogs.

According to Son, many breeders of older dogs are willing to close their operations if adequate financial compensation is given to them, due to the extremely negative public image of their profession.

Cheon JinKyung, director of Korea Animal Rights Advocates in Seoul, accused the breeders of demanding unreasonably high compensation. She argued that compensation based on the number of dogs owned by farmers would not be accepted, but acknowledged that payments would be a major problem.

Ordinary citizens are divided on the ban.

“Dogs are different from cows, chickens and pigs,” says Kim Myung-ae, a 58-year-old resident of Seoul. “Why continue to eat dogs when today they are considered more as pets than food?”

Another Seoul resident, Jeong Yoon Hee, disagrees, saying dog meat consumption is a matter of personal choice and food culture. “Dogs are dogs, not people,” she said

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