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New law in South Korea makes it illegal to trade dog meat

A recently approved law in South Korea aims to put an end to the long-standing tradition of consuming dog meat. The legislation, expected to come into effect in 2027, will make it illegal to slaughter and sell dogs for their meat. Although the consumption of dog meat will not be banned, the practice has already lost its appeal among younger generations and is no longer considered popular in the country.

South Korea’s Ban on Dog Meat Trade

The consumption of dog meat in South Korea has experienced a significant decline in recent years, according to a Gallup poll. Only 8% of respondents admitted to trying dog meat in the past 12 months, a notable decrease from the 27% reported in 2015. Furthermore, less than one-fifth of those surveyed expressed support for dog meat consumption.

Lee Chae-yeon, a 22-year-old student, emphasized the importance of the recently passed ban in promoting animal rights. The evolving societal perspective on pets, with an increasing number of dogs considered as valued family members, has played a crucial role in shaping attitudes towards the consumption of dog meat. Lee Chae-yeon, speaking to the BBC in Seoul, remarked that it is inappropriate to consume animals regarded as part of one’s own family.

The new legislation primarily concentrates on the dog meat trade. Those found guilty of butchering dogs could face a prison sentence of up to three years, while individuals involved in raising and selling dog meat may be sentenced to a maximum of two years. To facilitate a smooth transition, farmers and restaurant owners are provided with a three-year timeframe to seek alternative employment and income sources before the ban takes effect.

Opposition to Ban

According to government statistics, in 2023 there were approximately 1,600 dog meat restaurants and 1,150 dog farms in South Korea. However last week, South Korea passed a bill banning the dog meat industry, which includes the slaughter of dogs for consumption and also sale and purchase of dog meat.

All existing businesses must submit a plan to phase out their operations, and the government has promised to provide full support, although compensation details have yet to be finalized.

Not everyone supports the ban. Kim Seon-ho, an 86-year-old diner at one of the last remaining dog meat restaurants, said, “We’ve eaten this since the Middle Ages. Why stop us from eating our traditional food? If you ban dog meat then you should ban beef”.

This topic has been debated in the country dating back to the 1980s, with previous governments making pledges to ban dog meat industry without much progress. However, current President Yoon Suk Yeol and First Lady Kim Keon Hee are known animal lovers and have six dogs themselves, with Ms Kim calling for the practice of eating dogs to end.

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