South Korea said Thursday it will launch a task force to consider banning dog meat consumption after the country’s president offered to end the age-old practice.
Restaurants serving dog meat are dwindling in South Korea as younger people find dog meat a less appetizing dining option and pets are becoming more popular. Recent studies indicate that more people are against banning dog meat, even if many don’t eat it.
In a statement, seven government offices, including the Ministry of Agriculture, said they decided to launch the group, made up of officials, civilian experts and people from related organizations, to make recommendations on potentially banning the consumption of dog meat. It said authorities will gather information on dog farms, restaurants and other facilities as they survey public opinion.
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“As the number of pet families has grown rapidly and public interest in animal rights and welfare has increased in our country, voices are growing that it is difficult to now see dog meat consumption as a traditional food culture,” said Prime Minister. . Kim Boo-kyum, the country’s No. 2 official, said ahead of the statement’s release.
The government says the initiative, the first of its kind, does not necessarily guarantee a ban on dog meat. The joint statement noted that “public awareness of the basic right (eating preferred foods) and animal rights issues are intertwined in a complicated way” when it comes to dog meat consumption.
The seemingly vague attitude sparked rapid protests from dog farmers and animal rights activists alike.
Farmers say the task force’s launch is nothing more than a formality to close their farms and dog meat restaurants, while activists argue the government’s announcement lacks determination to ban the consumption of dog meat.
Ju Yeongbong, general secretary of a dog breeder’s association, accused the government of “trampling” people’s right to eat what they want and farmers’ right to live.
Lee Won Bok, head of the Korea Association for Animal Protection, called the government’s announcement “very disappointing” because there were no concrete plans to ban dog meat consumption.
“We have serious doubts about the government’s determination to end dog meat consumption,” Lee said.
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About 1 million to 1.5 million dogs are killed for food in South Korea every year, down from several million about 10-20 years ago. According to Ju’s organization, thousands of farmers currently breed a total of about 1 million to 2 million dogs for meat in South Korea.
Ju said farmers, mostly poor, elderly people, want the government to temporarily legalize dog meat consumption for about 20 years, expecting demand to gradually decline. Lee said animal rights groups want a faster end to the company.
“South Korea is the only developed country where people eat dogs, an act that undermines our international image,” Lee said. “Even if the K-pop band BTS and the (Korean drama) Squid Game are number 1 in the world, foreigners still associate South Korea with dog meat and the Korean War.”
Lee accused many farmers of animal cruelty and other illegal activities in raising and slaughtering their dogs. Ju said activists “exaggerated” such information and that it only applies to a small number of farms.
According to Lee, dogs are consumed as food in North Korea, China and Vietnam as well as South Korea.
In September, during a meeting with the prime minister, President Moon Jae-in, a dog enthusiast, asked “whether it is time to carefully consider” a ban on the consumption of dog meat, sparking a new debate on the issue.
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Dog meat is neither legal nor explicitly prohibited in South Korea.