South Korea’s parliament expected to pass Bill to ban dog meat trade

SEOUL: South Korea’s parliament is expected to vote Tuesday (Jan 9) to ban eating dog meat and its trade, a traditional practice that activists have long called an international embarrassment for the country.

Dog meat has long been a part of South Korean cuisine, and at one point up to a million dogs were believed to be killed for the trade every year, but consumption has sharply declined recently, as Koreans embrace pet ownership in droves.

Eating dog meat is now something of a taboo among younger, urban South Koreans, and pressure from animal rights activists has also been mounting on the government to outlaw the practice.

Official support for a ban has grown under President Yoon Suk Yeol, a self-professed animal lover who has adopted several stray dogs and cats with First Lady Kim Keon Hee – who is herself a vocal critic of dog meat consumption.

If the Bill is passed, breeding, selling and slaughtering dogs for their meat will become punishable by up to three years in prison or 30 million won (US$23,000) in fines.

The legislation will come into effect after a three-year grace period.

In a new survey released on Monday by Seoul-based think tank, Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education, nine out of 10 people in South Korea said they would not eat dog meat in the future.

Previous efforts to ban dog meat have run into fierce opposition from farmers who breed dogs for consumption. The Bill seeks to provide compensation so that businesses can move out of the trade.

Around 1,100 dog farms breed hundreds of thousands of dogs each year which are served in restaurants across the country, according to government figures.

Dog meat is usually eaten in South Korea as a summertime delicacy, with the greasy red meat – invariably boiled for tenderness – believed to increase energy to help handle the heat.

The country’s current animal protection law is intended mainly to prevent the cruel slaughter of dogs and cats, but does not ban consumption itself.

Nonetheless, authorities have invoked the law and other hygiene regulations to crack down on dog farms and restaurants ahead of international events such as the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

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