South Korea bans dog meat industry as pet ownership proliferates

Animal welfare groups welcome new law but want protection extended to other sentient creatures….

South Korea’s National Assembly has voted to outlaw its dog meat industry amid rising political and public pressure to recognize the animals as companions rather than food.

The ban will come into force in six months and include a three-year phase-out, eventually prohibiting the breeding, slaughter and sale of dogs and dog meat for human consumption.

According to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, around 1,160 farms breed dogs for human consumption in South Korea and approximately 520,000 dogs are raised on these farms annually. Around 1,700 restaurants sell dog meat across the country.

But consumer demand for dog meat has decreased significantly as more South Koreans take dogs as family pets. A Humane Society International-commissioned study last year revealed that most citizens (86%) have little to no intention of consuming dog meat in the future.

A majority (57%) also support a ban on the dog meat industry with animal cruelty the top concern (53%) ahead of unsanitary production conditions (50%).

Meanwhile, animal protection groups have stressed that other factory-farmed animals like pigs and chickens would receive similar political and public support if awareness of their sentience and exposure to their welfare conditions increased.

Dog meat has its day

Animal welfare groups question why many consumers would welcome dog meat bans but eat other sentient animals.

Humane Society International describes the dog meat ban as “history in the making.” The charity recognizes that a phase-out period is an inevitable consequence of dismantling a huge industry like dog meat and helping farmers and traders transition to other livelihoods.

“While we would wish that the industry comes to an end immediately, three years is a relatively short window to end a cruel industry that has been in existence for so long. Plus, the ban comes into effect immediately to stop the creation of any new dog meat farms or related businesses,” said Wendy Higgins, Humane Society International’s director of international media.

“However, we urge the South Korean government to use these next three years to work with animal welfare groups to rescue as many dogs as possible in a state-sponsored, coordinated effort.”

Dog farmers, slaughterers and restaurant owners will be eligible to apply for government compensation in a process similar to the Models for Change program run by Humane Society International Korea. Since 2015, the charity has helped 18 dog farmers across South Korea switch to growing crops such as chili plants and parsley or water delivery.

Humane Society International estimates that up to one million dogs are factory-farmed and killed for human consumption in South Korea every year.

Penalties for breaching the new law include up to three years imprisonment and fines.

Continental impacts

South Korea joins a growing list of countries and territories across Asia that have banned the dog meat trade — with varying degrees of enforcement — including Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, India, Thailand and Singapore, and the cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai in mainland China, Siem Reap province in Cambodia and 45 cities, regencies and provinces in Indonesia.

Humane Society International hopes that South Korea’s ban will inspire policymakers in other countries across Asia to take similar action.

Most South Koreans now refuse dog meat as more citizens recognize the animals as pets.“In Indonesia, for example, where millions of dogs and cats are stolen, trafficked and killed for meat, we have made significant progress securing bans in more than 40 cities, regencies and provinces,” says Higgins.

“But we need a national-level ban to really have an impact.”…..

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