South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, has ordered the government to review laws surrounding the use of dog meat for consumption. The decision has been made in the wake of more recent food trend changes and a shift in demand, rendering dog meat much less popular as a choice.
Roughly 3,000 dog meat farms still operate all around South Korea, with animal rights activists vehemently accusing dog farmers of keeping their canine livestock in inhumane conditions before slaughtering them. The general public of South Korea has also begun to speak out against the use of dog meat in food and against the dog farming industry.
Adoption numbers for canine pets in South Korea have risen rapidly in recent years, with the average amount of households with pets sitting at around 27% of the population. According to a census report conducted by the Agricultural Ministry in 2010, around 17% of those households own pets. It can be expected that over the past decade since the last census, this number will have risen.
When compared to the pet household percentage in America, which is around 57%, South Korea’s numbers are relatively low, however, they are rising.
Yoon-jeong Choi, an avid activist for animal rights with the Korea Animal Rights Advocates group, has said that President Moon’s decision to have dog meat laws revised is long overdue. “There is no social debate about this issue anymore,” explained Choi. “Demand for dog meat has plummeted with generational changes, and only a small number of people still view dogs as something to consume.”
A poll, conducted Nielsen for Humane Society International in 2020, showed that around 84% of South Korean people have never consumed canine meat. Alternatively, those that have, expressed a design to discontinue the consumption of such meat in the future. Furthermore, the same poll found that around 54% of South Koreans are in full support of the banning of dog meat.
Jeon Jin-kyung, head of the Korea Animal Rights Advocates, spoke with the Korean Times regarding dog meat consumption, explaining that “A growing number of South Koreans are considering the consumption of dog meat as a matter of animal abuse rather than tradition.”
The consumption of dog meat in South Korea is a long-standing centuries-old culinary practice. The popularity of such meat has been rapidly declining in recent years and was a much more popular practice some decades ago. The first true international criticism for the use of dog meat came as a result of South Korea hosting the Summer Olympics in 1988.
Dog meat has already been banned in parts of Singapore, China, Thailand, and Taiwan. Though it is still calculated that an estimated 30 million canines are still being slaughtered on the continent annually. This estimation came as a result of insight and investigation by the Humane Society International, an animal rights group based in the United States.
In contradiction with his own love of dogs and advocacy for better treatment of animals whilst campaigning 4 years ago, President Moon has shown reluctance to end the dog meat trade. In 2018, when the public petitioned for dogs to be treated more humanely, President Moon’s administrative team declined the request citing concern for the livelihood of restaurants that still rely on the use of canine meat.
President Moon is now in the final year of a non-renewable five-year term and has decided to review his previous stance on dog treatment and the dog meat practice. According to his office, the South Korean leader has listened to concerns regarding the country’s canine welfare policies and has decided it may be time for the country to look into the possibility of banning the consumption of dog meat for good.
According to the presidential spokesperson, President Moon is quoted to have asked Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum, “Hasn’t the time come to prudently consider prohibiting dog meat consumption?” during a weekly meeting. President Moon also adopted a stray dog, named Tory, during his presidential campaign, which was later bought into the Blue House after Moon was appointed the position of President.
Following the president’s announcement, there has been an outcry from those that still heavily rely on the use of dog meat. Voicing their frustrations and pointing out the question of whether or not cows and pigs should also be exempt from being slaughtered for meat.
Lee Gil-soon, a 65-year-old restaurant owner from Seoul, who makes her living selling dog meat meals with her husband for over 30 years, has spoken out regarding the possible law change, explaining that it could prove a fatal blow to her finances. According to Lee, she has been seeing a strong dip in sales before the pandemic, with those sales being halved post-pandemic.
“I can barely pay my rent,” Lee explained. “Look, I know dogs are beautiful. I owned one too, but I need a way to make a living.” She has said that if canine meat is taken away she may be forced to close, resulting in the requirement for a payout in order to maintain her living.
Lee is also on the side of the argument asking the question of why dogs are exempt, but cows are not. Explaining that she once stopped eating beef for a year after seeing harrowing images of an unfortunate cow shedding tears before being slaughtered.
Choi, the anima rights activist has also spoken on behalf of the majority of dog farmers of restaurant owners. Explaining that these businesses find themselves feeling trapped within a dying industry, with dog-selling businesses now being half of what they used to be. “They want to find a way out, but it’s also the only work they’ve known for years. They’re afraid to leave.” Choi explained.
Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung, who is considered to be a strong candidate for Presidency has spoken out about dog farming in his campaign. Telling supports of the movement that he feels new laws and policies need to be put in place based on “social consensus”.