South Korea has recently made a historic decision by voting to outlaw its centuries-old dog meat industry, a move hailed as "history in the making" by animal rights activists. This groundbreaking decision, supported by 208 votes to zero in the South Korean parliament, reflects changing attitudes toward the controversial practice, which has been a part of the country's cultural history.
The ban, set to take effect in 2027, encompasses the breeding, slaughter, and sale of dogs and dog meat for human consumption. Offenders could face penalties of up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 30 million KRW (£18,000). Immediate restrictions have been placed on establishing new dog farms, slaughterhouses, and facilities involved in cooking and processing dog meat. However, notably absent from the legislation are specific penalties for the consumption of dog meat.
This move comes amid a declining demand for dog meat in South Korea and a shift in societal views on the practice. The president at the time, Yoon Suk Yeol, known for his love of animals with six adopted dogs and eight cats, supported the ban. The legislation received approval despite protests and appeals from dog farmers, signaling a significant victory for animal welfare advocates.
JungAh Chae, head of South Korea's Humane Society International, expressed her astonishment at the ban, stating, "I never thought I would see in my lifetime a ban on the cruel dog meat industry in South Korea, but this historic win for animals is testament to the passion and determination of our animal protection movement."
Eating dog meat has deep historical roots in South Korea, with some considering it a traditional practice aimed at boosting stamina, particularly during the country's humid summers. However, recent surveys indicate that the consumption of dog meat has become increasingly rare, primarily among older individuals.
The legislation was introduced towards the end of the previous year, following the establishment of a taskforce in 2021 to explore the possibility of making the consumption of dog meat illegal. The industry, which has long been criticized for its cruel practices, including electrocution and hanging of dogs, has argued that slaughtering methods have improved over time.
Estimates on the scale of the industry vary, with the agriculture ministry suggesting in 2022 that approximately 1,100 farms were breeding around 570,000 dogs for consumption at roughly 1,600 restaurants. In contrast, the Korean Association of Edible Dogs, consisting of breeders and sellers, claimed that the ban would impact 3,500 farms raising 1.5 million dogs and 3,000 restaurants.
Previous attempts to implement anti-dog meat laws faced opposition due to concerns about the impact on the livelihoods of farmers and restaurant owners. The current ban, however, includes a three-year grace period and offers support for businesses to transition away from the dog meat trade. Despite these measures, Son Won Hak, leader of a farmers' association, decried the new law as "clear state violence" and accused the government of infringing upon the freedom of occupational choice.
In summary, South Korea's decision to ban the dog meat industry represents a significant shift in cultural and legislative perspectives, reflecting a growing awareness and concern for animal welfare. The ban, set to take effect in 2027, is a historic milestone that marks the end of a centuries-old practice and opens up opportunities for positive change in the treatment of animals in the country.
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