South Korean parliament passes bill banning dog meat trade

NEW DELHI: South Korea‘s parliament has passed the bill that prohibits the breeding, slaughtering, and selling of dogs for their meat. This traditional practice, which has long been seen as an embarrassment by activists, will now be punishable by up to three years in prison or fines of up to 30 million won ($23,000).
The bill was approved by a unanimous vote of 208-0 in the National Assembly and will take effect after a three-year grace period and final approval from President Yoon Suk Yeol.
The consumption of dog meat has been a part of South Korean cuisine for many years, with an estimated one million dogs being killed for the trade annually at its peak. However, in recent times, there has been a significant decline in dog meat consumption as more South Koreans are embracing pet ownership. Eating dog meat has become a taboo, especially among younger urban Koreans. Pressure from animal rights activists has also been mounting on the government to ban the practice.
President Yoon, who identifies as an animal lover and has adopted several stray dogs and cats with First Lady Kim Keon Hee, has been supportive of the ban. First Lady Kim herself is a vocal critic of dog meat consumption. The passing of this bill marks a significant milestone, with activists describing it as “history in the making.”
JungAh Chae, the executive director of Humane Society International/Korea, expressed her approval of the bill, saying, “We reached a tipping point where most Korean citizens reject eating dogs and want to see this suffering consigned to the history books, and today our policymakers have acted decisively to make that a reality.” She further added, “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.”
A recent survey conducted by the Seoul-based think tank Animal Welfare Awareness, Research, and Education revealed that nine out of ten South Koreans stated they would not consume dog meat in the future. Previous attempts to ban dog meat faced strong opposition from farmers who breed dogs for consumption. However, the new law will provide compensation to support businesses in transitioning out of the dog meat trade.
According to government figures, approximately 1,100 dog farms in South Korea breed hundreds of thousands of dogs each year, which are then served in restaurants across the country. Dog meat is typically consumed as a summertime delicacy, with the belief that the greasy red meat, boiled for tenderness, helps increase energy to cope with the heat.
It is important to note that South Korea’s current animal protection law primarily focuses on preventing the cruel slaughter of dogs and cats but does not explicitly ban their consumption. Nevertheless, authorities have utilized this law, along with other hygiene regulations, to crack down on dog farms and restaurants in preparation for international events such as the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
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