TIME TO END THE CRUEL DOG MEAT TRADE
IN SOUTH KOREA
When Kim Keon-hee, the wife of South Korea’s president Yoon Suk Yeol, recently stated that she favoured a ban on the consumption of dog meat, it triggered an immediate protest from angry dog farmers. The First Lady made the remarks at a private luncheon attended by animal rights activists last month, when she stated that she would like to see a ban introduced before the end of her husband’s term in office in 2027. As news of her remarks spread, around 50 dog meat farmers quickly gathered near the president’s office in Seoul. Although the South Korean government, in 2021, set up a special committee to investigate reaching a social consensus on ending dog meat consumption, so far there has been little progress. Eating dog meat is a centuries-old practice in Korea and despite falling out of favour with younger people, dog meat farmers have demanded the right to maintain their businesses for the next 15-20 years until older people, mostly from poorer, rural areas, who are the main source of demand for the meat, die. Dog meat has already been banned in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore as well as two cities in mainland China. Indonesia is currently considering a ban.
South Korea’s First Lady, Kim Keon-hee and her husband are animal lovers. They have six dogs and five cats. Kim has been interested in animal rights movements for many years, openly stating that TV programmes that depict the abuse of animals make her heart ache. But the dog meat farmers have accused her of threatening their livelihoods and say that she has no right to propose such a policy as she is not a government official. They have filed a complaint with the police alleging she has abused their rights to jobs and happiness. During their rally, they chanted slogans demanding Kim withdraw her reported comments and the government formulate steps to support the farmers. “Guarantee our livelihoods! Guarantee!” they shouted.
About 1 million dogs are slaughtered for food every year in South Korea, a decrease from more than 3 million killed annually 10 years ago. But the practice is considered barbaric by most people and animal rights activists are demanding it be stopped. It is estimated that around 1,500 dog meat farms still exist in the country, despite the steady decline in consumption. The South Korean government closed down the Taepyeong-dong complex, a huge slaughterhouse for dogs, in 2018. It is reckoned that there are only around 100 restaurants in Seoul still offering dog meat on their menus, out of a total of over half a million restaurants in the city. But there are an estimated 1,600 restaurants throughout South Korea still serving the meat.
Although the main dog breed currently raised for meat is the Nureongi, a yellow-furred mongrel-type canine native to South Korea, there are widespread reports of different pet breeds like Labradors, retrievers and cocker spaniels, being slaughtered for their meat. Humane Society International/Korea, who have campaigned to close dog meat farms, have even claimed to have found golden retrievers, beagles, poodles and huskies being bred for slaughter on these farms. The dogs are kept in bare metal cages, with no exercise and no form of basic comfort. They’re exposed to the elements all year round. They are commonly slaughtered by electrocution, although sometimes they can be hung by the back legs and bludgeoned over the head before being bled, sometimes while still alive. According to Humane Society International, occasionally they can even be boiled alive. Although such brutal practices were banned by the Animal Protection Act in South Korea more than a decade ago, the closure of many dog slaughterhouses has driven the cruel custom underground. The majority of dogs are butchered in July and August for the Bok Nal season, seen as the hottest days of summer, when some Koreans believe the meat helps to keep them cool.
As pet ownership in South Korea expands, the majority of the population regard dogs as companion animals and are appalled at the idea of eating them. Many young people argue that sharing life with a dog leads to a bond of understanding that makes it impossible to contemplate the suffering dogs endure being reared for their meat. A ban on eating dog meat is now supported by 60% of South Koreans. South Korea’s president Yoon Suk Yeol should ignore the protesting dog meat farmers and listen to his wife Kim. Dog meat has had its day in South Korea and the barbaric trade should be banned.