Lawmakers in South Korea Tuesday passed a watershed ban on the production and sale of dog meat for human consumption, a centuries-old practice that has become less popular with younger generations.
South Korea’s parliament voted 208-0 in favor of the ban, which will go into effect in 2027, after a three-year transition period allowing dog farmers and restaurants to re-purpose or close their businesses.
Animal rights activists celebrated the ban Tuesday, which comes after years of organized, vocal opposition to the practice of eating dog meat, such as in stews. South Korea joins a growing list of places that have banned human consumption of dog meat, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, India, Thailand and Singapore, and individual cities across China, Indonesia and the Siem Reap province in Cambodia, according to Humane Society International.
The organization’s executive director for Korea applauded the move Tuesday, calling the ban “history in the making.”
“We reached a tipping point where most Korean citizens reject eating dogs and want to see this suffering consigned to the history books,” HSI/Korea executive director JungAh Chae said in a statement.
Recent surveys show more than half of South Koreans want dog meat banned and a majority no longer eat it, the Associated Press reported. A 2023 Nielsen Korea opinion poll shows that 86% of South Koreans won’t eat dog meat in the future and 57% support a ban, HSI/Korea said in a statement Tuesday.
Animal rights activists long decried poor conditions at dog farms
In the bill, South Korean lawmakers said the legislation is meant to strengthen animal rights in the country.
“This law is aimed at contributing to realizing the values of animal rights, which pursue respect for life and a harmonious co-existence between humans and animals,” the legislation says.
For years, animal rights activists in South Korea have pointed to examples of inhumane treatment of dogs at farms across the country.
In 2018, while covering the Winter Olympics in South Korea, USA TODAY reporters found grim, inhumane conditions at a handful of dog farms not far from some Olympic stadiums. Hundreds of dogs were packed into filthy cages and most were emaciated, USA TODAY reported.
Most farms in South Korea raise about 500 dogs, but one visited by the Associated Press in July 2023 had about 7,000, the news wire reported. For years, South Korea has also been the only country with industrial-scale dog farms, according to the Associated Press.
Dogs are also eaten in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, North Korea and in some African countries.
South Korea dog meat ban offers compensation to dog farmers
South Korea’s ban would make slaughtering, breeding and selling dog meat for human consumption illegal starting in 2027 and punishable by two to three years in prison. It doesn’t provide any penalties for eating dog meat.
The bill offers assistance to dog farmers and others in the industry in shutting down their businesses and shifting to alternatives. Details are to be worked out amongst government officials, farmers, experts and animal rights activists.
But the legislation doesn’t clearly specify how dog farmers and others in the industry will be supported. Agriculture Minister Song Mi-ryung said Tuesday the government will try to formulate reasonable assistance programs for them.
Ju Yeongbong, an official of the farmers’ association, said most farmers are in their 60s and 80s and hope to continue their businesses until older people, their main customers, die. But Ju said the legislation would “strip them of their right to live” because it would likely end up only offering assistance for dismantling their facilities and for transitions, without compensation for giving up their dogs.
Son Won Hak, a farmer and former leader of a farmers’ association, said many elderly dog farmers are willing to close their farms if proper financial compensation is provided because of the extremely negative public view of their jobs. He also said dog farmers will file a petition with the Constitutional Court of Korea and hold demonstrations against the ban.
Contributing: Associated Press