Photos from Humane Society International
Animal groups in South Korea are urging the newly elected president Yoon Seok-yeol to act swiftly on his pre-election pledge to tackle the dog meat industry. Among them, Seoul-based animal protection group Humane Society International/Korea says Yoon’s election must herald “a historic opportunity to consign the dog meat industry to South Korea’s history books.”
Yoon Seok-yeol of the People Power party, has made several statements confirming his support for a ban on dog meat providing there is social consensus. A 2020 opinion poll commissioned by HSI/Korea and conducted by Nielsen demonstrates such consensus, with nearly 84% of South Koreans saying they don’t or won’t eat dog meat, and almost 60% supporting a legislative ban on the trade.
During the 20th presidential election campaign, Yoon was criticized for expressing an often-repeated but baseless claim by the dog meat industry that dogs raised for meat are different from pet dogs. He later clarified that he is personally opposed to eating dogs and would progress a phase-out plan as soon as possible as long as it has Korean society’s support, which polling suggests is the case.
HSI/Korea has rescued more than 2,500 dogs from South Korean dog meat farms since 2015 and permanently closed 17 dog farms in cooperation with farmers eager to exit the dying industry. Nara Kim, HSI/Korea’s dog meat campaign manager stated “The election of Yoon Seok-yeol as South Korea’s new president presents our country with a historic opportunity to consign the dog meat industry to South Korea’s history books where it belongs. More than one million dogs per year – from small dachshunds to large tosas – are needlessly suffering on miserable dog meat farms just to be killed for soup. With changing perceptions of dogs as family members, social consensus in favor of a dog meat ban is now beyond doubt so HSI/Korea stands ready to work with the new president to put his pledge into action. Factory farming dogs for eating must become a thing of the past as soon as possible.”
In December last year, the South Korean government set up a cross-ministerial task force to consider a ban on the dog meat industry, following a suggestion by former President, Moon Jae-in. The task force, comprising of four ministries, as well as academic, dog meat industry and animal welfare stakeholders, is expected to make recommendations in April of this year, and Seoul city municipal council is also due to vote on a proposed bill calling for the mayor to ban the consumption of dog meat citywide.
HSI/Korea helps farmers transition to new, more humane and profitable livelihoods such as chili plant growing or water truck delivery. Most of the farmers with whom HSI/Korea has worked with experience mounting societal, family, and financial pressure to get out of farming dogs. With growing concern for animal welfare, and over six million pet dogs now living in Korean homes, demand for dog meat has dwindled.
Although most people in South Korea don’t eat dog, the belief that dog meat soup will cool the body during the hot summer and build stamina still holds true with some, particularly the older generation.
In South Korea, up to 1.5 million dogs per year are raised on thousands of farms across the country. Many of them are sold to butchers for Bok Nal season in July and August, to be killed by electrocution and sold for soup.
Dog meat is banned in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, as well as in the cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai in mainland China, Siem Reap province in Cambodia, and five cities and regencies in Indonesia. An estimated 30 million dogs per year are still killed for their meat in other parts of Asia.