‘It’s history in the making’: South Korea passes law banning centuries-old dog meat industry

9 January 2024, 09:07 | Updated: 9 January 2024, 09:09

New legislation is set to outlaw the dog meat industry.
New legislation is set to outlaw the dog meat industry. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

South Korea has passed new legislation to outlaw the dog meat industry by 2027.

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The landmark legislation would outlaw the country’s dog meat industry, meaning raising or slaughtering dogs for consumption, as well as distributing or selling dog meat, would be banned.

Under the law, anybody who ignores the ban could be sent to jail.

Those who are convicted of slaughtering dogs could face three years behind bars, while those who raise the animals for meat or sell dog meat could serve up to two years.

The consumption of dog meat, however, will not be banned.

Dog meat consumption, a centuries-old practice on the Korean Peninsula, is neither explicitly banned nor legalised in South Korea.

Hundreds of thousands of dogs are slaughtered for meat each year in South Korea, according to activists and farmers. Although there are no official figures indicating the exact size of the industry.

However, the practice has fallen out of favour in recent years as calls to ban the practice have grown, particularly among younger generations.

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Dog meat broth or 'Bosintang'.
Dog meat broth or 'Bosintang'. Picture: Alamy

The legislation will take effect in 2027 to give farmers and restaurant owners time to find alternative sources of employment and income.

Government statistics show that South Korea had around 1,600 dog meat restaurants and 1,150 dog farms in 2023.

On Tuesday, the National Assembly passed the Bill by a 208-0 vote. President Yoon Suk Yeol's government supports the ban, so the subsequent steps to make it law are considered a formality.

The President and the First Lady, Kim Keon Hee, are known animal lovers with six of their own dogs.

"This law is aimed at contributing to realising the values of animal rights, which pursue respect for life and a harmonious co-existence between humans and animals," the legislation reads.

Dogs caged at a meat farm in Asan.
Dogs caged at a meat farm in Asan. Picture: Alamy

The Bill would offer assistance to farmers and others in the industry for shutting down their businesses or shifting to alternatives. Details of outlawing the industry would be worked out among government officials, farmers, experts and animal rights activists, according to the Bill.

Humane Society International called the legislation's passage "history in the making".

JungAh Chae, executive director of HSI's Korea office: “I never thought I would see in my lifetime a ban on the cruel dog meat industry in South Korea, but this historic win for animals is testament to the passion and determination of our animal protection movement.”

Recent surveys show more people want the industry banned and a majority of South Koreans do not eat dog meat any longer.

However, despite mounting calls to introduce a ban, the survey also shows that one in every three South Koreans still oppose the ban even though they do not eat dog meat.

While some dog farmers have said they plan to file a constitutional appeal and launch rallies in protest.

Son Won Hak, a farmer and leader of a farmers' association, said: “This is a clear state violence as they're infringing upon freedom of occupational option. We can't just sit idly.”

Mr Son said farmers will meet on Wednesday to discuss other future steps.