South Korea passes law banning sale and production of dog meat

Rare bipartisan support 'highlights changing attitudes' as young people shun centuries-old tradition

Animal rights activists celebrate outside the National Assembly, Seoul, 9 January 2024
Animal rights activists celebrate outside the National Assembly in Seoul after parliament's historic decision
(Image credit: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images)

South Korea has passed a law banning the breeding and slaughter of dogs for human consumption.

The bill, which passed on Tuesday with near unanimous support in parliament, will take effect after a three-year grace period. From 2027, those who breed, butcher, distribute or sell dog meat for human consumption could face up to three years in jail or a fine of up to 30 million won (£18,000). Eating dog meat itself will still be legal, however.

The legislation ends a centuries-old tradition that has become hugely controversial both domestically and around the world. CNN said the rare bipartisan support the bill received across South Korea's divided political landscape highlighted "how attitudes toward eating dog have transformed over the past few decades during the country's rapid industrialization".

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Government statistics show that there are more than 1,000 dog farms and about 1,600 restaurants selling dog meat dishes. Animal rights activists estimate that at the industry's peak nearly one million dogs were killed for human consumption each year.

Yet while dog meat stew, known as "boshintang", is considered a delicacy among some older South Koreans, a recent survey found that 93% of respondents had no intention of eating dog meat. With many other Asian countries outlawing the practice, increasing public opposition, fuelled by animal cruelty concerns, has sharpened over the years and sparked a "heated national debate", said Time.

Previous proposals to outlaw the practice have been stymied by fierce opposition from dog meat farmers and sellers, "who have even scuffled with police during protests" in November, reported the magazine.

Speaking to the BBC, some elderly farmers and restaurateurs said it would be difficult for them to switch livelihoods so late in life and they argued that, given the declining popularity among young people, the practice should be allowed to die out naturally over time.

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