South Korea passes bill to ban sale and consumption of dog meat: Details about landmark move

Dog meat consumption has declined over the years. Traditionally, it was seen as a way to increase stamina during the hot Korean summer.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s lower house approved a bill to ban the sale and consumption of dogmeat, ending a practice that dates back to the 1800s. 

The bill marks a shift in the country’s approach to animal welfare, as more and more people consider dogs to be family members.

Once thought of as a way to increase stamina during the hot Korean summer, dog meat consumption has decreased over the years, and is now mainly used by the elderly. Criticism of how dogs are killed (electrocution or hanging) has also contributed to the decrease in dog meat consumption.

Members of Animal activist groups hold up banners during a ceremony observing the passage of a law banning the dog meat trade, at the National Assembly in Soeul, South Korea, 09 January 2024. EFE-EPA/JEON HEON-KYUN

The purpose of this law is to promote the principles of animal rights. These principles are based on the principle that animals should be treated as if they were human beings and that humans should treat animals with respect.

According to traders, there has been some improvement in the humane slaughtering methods.

The bill, which was tabled by the ruling party in the single chamber of parliament, won 208 votes with 2 abstentions after the bipartisan agriculture committee approved it on Monday.

Support for the ban has also been fueled by the popularity of President Yoon Suk yeol, who is known for his fondness for animals and has adopted 6 dogs and 8 cats with first lady Kim Keon Shee, who has also spoken out against dog meat consumption.

The new law will enter into force after a grace period of three years, with penalties ranging from three years in jail to 30 million won (approximately $22,800) in fines.

Borami Seo, a representative of HSI Korea, an animal protection group, said in a statement to Reuters that the bill “will put an end to dog breeding and killing for human consumption.” Seo added, “We have come to a critical moment to save millions of dogs.”

More than 94 percent of respondents said they had stopped eating dog meat in the last year, and more than 93 percent said they plan to stop eating it in the future, according to a survey published on Monday by the Seoul-based animal welfare awareness, research and education think tank.

JungAh Chae, executive director of the HSI, told AP, “I never expected to see a dog meat ban in South Korea in my lifetime. This historic victory for animals is proof of the strength and dedication of our animal welfare movement.

While previous attempts to ban dogmeat have failed due to industry resistance, the aim of this bill is to provide compensation to encourage businesses to move out of the trade.

In November, about 200 dog owners for consumption held a protest in front of the White House to call for the bill to be withdrawn.

According to the agriculture ministry, in April 2022, 1,100 breeding farms were producing 570,000 hounds for human consumption, with about 1,600 of them intended for restaurants.

A farmers’ association leader, speaking to the AP, said, “It’s a clear act of state violence because it’s a violation of freedom of professional choice. We cannot just sit by.”

Korean Breeders and Sellers Association (KDA), a group of breeders and vendors, said the ban would affect 3,500 dog breeders, 3,000 dog restaurants, and 1,5 million dogs.