Dog meat: The beginning of the end


On January 9, 2024 South Korea’s parliament took an historic step by banning the centuries-old barbaric dog meat industry, including the closure of dog meat farms, slaughterers and restaurants across the country as well as the distribution and selling of dog meat. There was rejoicing, tears and speeches for dozens of animal activists including Jiyen Lee founder/president of Animal Liberation Wave, a South Korean animal rights group, and Last Chance for Animals’ Chris DeRose celebrating this victory for the campaign they waged for years. And the bill received rare bipartisan support. It was proposed by both President Yoon’s ruling party and the main opposition party, and received support from First Lady Kim Keon Hee, a vocal critic of dog meat consumption. The Presidential couple has adopted several stray dogs and cats. Hopefully this decision can influence China, Vietnam and Indonesia to follow suit.

South Korea has relied primarily on commercial dog meat farms, a massive unregulated industry, to supply the country’s demand. Dog meat was viewed traditionally as an antidote to the sweltering heat, especially during Boknal – a celebration of the peak of the summer growing season. About 1150 farms continue to breed about half a million dogs for meat while 1600 restaurants sell dog meat dishes in South Korea according to the agriculture ministry.

But, in recent years, the tradition has faded.⁠ Eating dog meat is something of a taboo among younger, urban South Koreans since images from the hellscape of dog meat farms have been seen by more and more people and the inherent and inexcusable cruelty has become an embarrassment for the country. Also, animal rights activists have found their voice so pressure has been mounting on the government to outlaw the practice.

Korean society has reached a tipping point where most people now reject eating dogs and want to see this suffering consigned to the history books,” said Chae Jung-ah, executive director of the animal welfare organization Humane Society International/Korea⁠. Lee Chae-yeon, a 22-year-old student, said the ban was necessary to promote animal rights.“More people have pets today,” she told the BBC in Seoul. “Dogs are like family now and it’s not nice to eat our family.”⁠

The bill grants a three-year grace period for dog meat businesses to transition to other income sources, with the ban taking full effect in 2027.⁠ Violators will face up to three years in prison or 30 million Korean won ($22,800). Relief measures are in place, subsidies will be offered and HSI/Korea launched a conversion campaign to help those affected by the ban switch to growing cabbages, chili plants or parsley, farm medicinal herbs or blueberries, and other livelihoods. As Lola Webber co-founder of Change For Animals Foundation states “Of all the farmers and traders I have metnot one of them has shown pride in their job, whilst every single one of them has expressed remorse for the dogs who’ve suffered at their hands, resolutely declaring that they are ready to leave the industry but need help to do so.” The agriculture ministry said it will consult with relevant businesses to ensure they continue to operate stably and provide “maximum support within a reasonable range.”

The years long phase out period is a consequence of dismantling and helping farmers and traders move out of the trade. “During the phase out period we will continue our vital work to save as many innocent lives as we can” said Fleur Dawes communications director of In Defense of Animals. IDA is working with a local partner, Jindo Love Rescue, to pull dogs from South Korean farms and place in homes in the U.S. and Canada. JLR rescues all breeds and all sizes. They care for, rehabilitate and foster in South Korea until they’re healthy enough to be sent for adoption in American homes. An international adoption is easier than you might think. The process isn’t much different from any other rescue: the initial interview, JLR asks questions and you can too, the application, the adoption fee and two references. There are photos and videos and JLR finds someone to fly your pup stateside.

This milestone moment sends a clear message to other countries, it’s time for the dog meat trade to be abolished for good.

As Jiyen Lee says “I hope other nations will follow this example and we can make it so that no nation on Earth tolerates the killing and eating of dogs.” And to quote Lola Webber once again, After all, it’s no dog’s destiny to suffer.” 

(Featured Image courtesy of Change For Animals Foundation)

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