SEOUL. – The South Korean government is opening discussions on legislation that would outlaw the consumption of dog meat, a move that has delighted animal rights activists and pet owners.
Traditionalists, however, are opposed to the proposal on the grounds that dog meat is a traditional Korean dish, and that people should be free to eat it if they wish.
The issue is on the agenda after President Moon Jae-in suggested in September that it might be time to consider imposing a ban on the sale and consumption of dog meat.
Moon, a known animal lover, said eating dog has become increasingly controversial in international society. South Koreans have responded before to outside criticism on dog meat consumption. In 1988, the government closed down all dog meat restaurants in Seoul for the duration of the Olympic Games out of concern that it would paint a negative image of local culinary culture.
And while eating dog has been a part of Korean cuisine for centuries, its popularity has fallen dramatically in recent years.
There were fewer than 100 restaurants serving dog in Seoul in 2019, and the industry was reporting that sales were falling by as much as 30% per year. The largest dog slaughterhouse in the country, in Seongnam, closed in 2018. The last major dog meat market, in the city of Daegu, shut down earlier this year.
Nevertheless, as many as 1.5 million dogs are raised as food on farms across the country every year. Most are consumed in the hot and humid summer months, when eating dog meat is believed to provide stamina and increase male virility.
But a public opinion poll commissioned in 2020 by Humane Society International/Korea (HSI) showed that 84 percent of Koreans do not or will not eat dog, and 60 percent said they support a legal ban on the trade.
“In the last 10 years or so, as more and more people have pet dogs in their homes, dogs are seen as part of the family and not as food,” said Nara Kim, who heads the organization’s End Dog Meat campaign.
The Korean media has typically failed to report on the reality of the dog farms, but when HSI activists began to take reporters to visit farms, viewers were shocked both at the conditions and to see dogs they considered to be pets waiting to be slaughtered. – dw.com