South Korea’s historic step to ending consumption of dog meat by 2027

South Korea's historic step to ending consumption of dog meat by 2027

Seoul, South Korea | By Michael Wandati | South Korea has taken a significant step toward putting an end to the longstanding tradition of slaughtering and selling dogs for their meat by passing a new law. The legislation, set to be effective in 2027, aims to phase out the consumption of dog meat.

Over the past few decades, the consumption of dog meat has declined, particularly among the younger generation who increasingly reject this practice.

The new law explicitly prohibits raising or slaughtering dogs for consumption, as well as the distribution and sale of dog meat. Violators may face imprisonment, with those involved in butchering dogs potentially serving up to three years, while those raising or selling dog meat facing a maximum of two years.

Crucially, the act does not criminalize the act of consuming dog meat itself. Instead, it focuses on eliminating the production and trade aspects of this practice. This approach allows for a phased transition, giving farmers and restaurant owners three years to devise alternative sources of employment and income.

To ease the impact on those affected by the ban, the government has pledged full support for dog meat farmers, butchers, and restaurant owners. However, the specifics of the compensation package remain to be determined. Those facing closure due to the new law will be required to submit a plan outlining the phase-out of their businesses to local authorities.

South Korea’s commitment to ending this centuries-old tradition reflects evolving attitudes and a desire for humane treatment of animals, marking a significant cultural shift.

As per official government figures, South Korea housed approximately 1,600 dog meat restaurants and 1,150 dog farms in 2023. Despite dog meat stew, known as “boshintang,” being considered a delicacy by some older South Koreans, its popularity has notably waned among the younger demographic.

Government statistics reveal a decline in the consumption of dog meat, with only 8% of people trying it in the past 12 months, a significant drop from 27% in 2015. Additionally, less than a fifth of those polled expressed support for the consumption of dog meat.

While previous administrations since the 1980s pledged to ban consumption of dog meat, President Yoon Suk Yeol and First Lady Kim Keon Hee, both avid animal lovers with six dogs of their own, have taken a stand against this practice. Their commitment was evident in a recent vote that garnered praise from long-standing animal rights groups advocating for the ban.

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Jung Ah Chae, the Executive Director of the Humane Society in Korea, expressed surprise and joy at the ban, emphasizing that South Korea can now embark on a more compassionate, dog-friendly future.

However, dog meat farmers, who campaigned against the ban, argue that the declining popularity, especially among the youth, should naturally phase out the industry over time.

Many farmers, being elderly, voiced concerns about the difficulty of transitioning livelihoods late in life, emphasizing this as an infringement on personal freedom to choose one’s diet.

Amidst differing perspectives, South Korea’s decision to put an end to the dog meat industry reflects a significant shift in societal values and a step toward a more humane future.