South Korea’s parliament on Tuesday passed a bill to ban the breeding and slaughter of dog meat for consumption due to animal welfare concerns, which will bring an end to the country’s centuries-old practice.
The law, which will come into effect in 2027, will ban the breeding, slaughtering and selling dogs for their meat.
It gained bipartisan backing and is supported by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, an animal lover who owns six dogs and eight cats with First Lady Kim Keon Hee, also a vocal critic of dog meat consumption. The bill was passed by an overwhelming 208 votes with two abstentions in the single-chamber parliament.
“This is history in the making,” Chae Jung-ah, the executive director of Humane Society International Korea, an animal protection group told Reuters. “We have reached the tipping point where most Korean citizens reject eating dogs and want to see this suffering consigned to the history books.”
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Eating dog meat was once seen as a way to improve stamina in the humid Korean summer. But the practice has become rare – largely limited to some older people and specific restaurants – as more Koreans consider dogs as family pets and as criticism of how the dogs are slaughtered has grown.
For instance, a dog meat stew called “boshintang,” is considered a delicacy among some older South Koreans, but its consumption has dwindled among younger generations. It’s estimated that between 2 million and 2.5 million dogs are still consumed in South Korea each year.
Only 8% of people said they had tried dog meat in the past 12 months, down from 27% in 2015, according to a Gallup poll last year cited by the BBC. Fewer than a fifth of those polled said they supported the consumption of the meat.
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Under the new law, the breeding and slaughtering of dogs to produce meat for human consumption will be punishable by up to three years in prison or 30 million won ($22,800) in fines. The bill does not stipulate any penalties for eating dog meat per se.
“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 reads.
The passage of the bill did not come without resistance.
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Some angry dog farmers said they plan to challenge the bill’s constitutionality and hold protest rallies, a sign of continued heated debate over the ban, according to The AP.
Dogs are also eaten in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, North Korea and in some African countries, but South Korea’s dog meat industry has drawn more attention because of the country’s reputation as a cultural and economic powerhouse. It’s also the only nation with industrial-scale dog farms, with most farms in South Korea raising about 500 dogs, but one visited by The AP in July had about 7,000.
Last month, dozens of dog farmers and breeders protested the bill outside the presidential office in Seoul with many bringing their farmed dogs in cages, according to Reuters. Scuffles broke out between the farmers and police at the scene, with some protesters detained.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.