South Korea plans to ban the age-old tradition of eating dog meat, due to growing awareness of animal rights and international criticism over the controversial practice. A potential bill, which is expected to collect bipartisan support, could be in the pipeline this year.
Yu Eui-Dong, policy chief of the ruling People Power Party, summed up the sentiment at a recent meeting with other government officials and animal rights activists, saying, “It is time to put an end to social conflicts and controversies around dog meat consumption through the enactment of a special act to end it.”
The proposed legislation would include a three-year grace period for businesses reliant on the dog meat industry, along with financial support to help them transition.
South Korea’s dog meat consumption has been a long-standing custom, often seen as an antidote to the summer heat. But times are changing. The practice is less prevalent today than it was before, mostly consumed by the older population and served in a select few restaurants.
Agriculture Minister Chung Hwang-keun voiced the government’s commitment, stating that the government would enact the ban quickly and provide maximum support for those involved in the dog meat trade, aiding them in closing their businesses.
On the political front, First Lady Kim Keon Hee is a familiar critic of dog meat consumption, a stance shared by her husband, President Yoon Suk Yeol. The couple has even adopted stray dogs in a show of support for the cause.
Though previous attempts to ban dog meat have met with resistance from those in the industry and concerns over livelihoods, the tide appears to be shifting. Around 64% of Koreans now oppose dog meat consumption, according to a Gallup Korea poll conducted last year. Only 8% of the respondents admitted to consuming dog meat in the past year, a notable drop from 27% in 2015.
The Humane Society International, a renowned animal rights group, expressed delight over the potential ban, calling it “A dream come true for all of us who have campaigned so hard to end this cruelty.”
A quick look at the numbers: there are approximately 1,150 dog breeding farms, 34 slaughterhouses, and 219 distribution companies associated with the industry in South Korea. Not to mention, around 1,600 restaurants across the country that serve dog meat.
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