SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea aims to ban eating dog meat and put an end to the controversy over the ancient custom amid growing awareness of animal rights, a ruling party policy chief said on Friday.
The Korean practice of eating dog has drawn criticism from overseas for its cruelty but there has also been increasing opposition at home, particularly from the younger generation.
“It is time to put an end to social conflicts and controversies around dog meat consumption through the enactment of a special act to end it,” Yu Eui-dong, policy chief of the ruling People Power Party, said at a meeting with government officials and animal rights activists.
The government and ruling party would introduce a bill this year to enforce a ban, Yu said, adding that with expected bipartisan support, the bill should sail through parliament.
Agriculture Minister Chung Hwang-keun told the meeting the government would implement a ban quickly and provide the maximum possible support for those in the dog meat industry to close their businesses.
First lady Kim Keon Hee has been a vocal critic of dog meat consumption and, along with her husband, President Yoon Suk Yeol, has adopted stray dogs.
Anti-dog meat bills have failed in the past because of protests by those involved in the industry, and worry about the livelihoods of farmers and restaurant owners.
The proposed ban will include a three-year grace period and financial support for businesses to transition out of the trade.
Eating dog meat has been an age-old practice on the Korean peninsula and is seen as a way to beat the summer heat.
But it is much less common than it used to be in South Korea, though it is still eaten by some older people and served in certain restaurants.
Animal rights groups welcomed the prospect of a ban. “A dream come true for all of us who have campaigned so hard to end this cruelty,” Humane Society International said in a statement.
There are about dog 1,150 breeding farms, 34 slaughter houses, 219 distribution companies, and some 1,600 restaurants serving dog, according to government data.
A Gallup Korea poll last year showed 64% opposed dog meat consumption. The survey found only 8% of respondents had eaten dog within the past year, down from 27% in 2015. (Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Ed Davies, Robert Birsel)