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South Korea's parliament endorses landmark legislation outlawing dog meat industry

Animal rights activists stage a rally opposing South Korea's traditional culture of eating dog meat in Seoul, South Korea on July 8, 2023.
Ahn Young-joon
Animal rights activists stage a rally opposing South Korea's traditional culture of eating dog meat in Seoul, South Korea on July 8, 2023.

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's parliament on Tuesday endorsed landmark legislation outlawing the country's dwindling dog meat industry, as public calls for the ban have grown sharply amid animal rights campaigns and worries about the country's international image.

Some angry dog farmers said they plan to file a constitutional appeal and launch rallies in protest, a suggestion that heated debate over the ban would continue.

Dog meat consumption, a centuries-old practice on the Korean Peninsula, is neither explicitly banned nor legalized in South Korea. Recent surveys show more people want its ban and a majority of South Koreans don't eat dog meat any longer. But the surveys also indicated one in every three South Koreans still oppose the ban even though they don't eat dog meat.

On Tuesday, the National Assembly passed the bill by a 208-0 vote Tuesday. President Yoon Suk Yeol's government supports the ban, so the subsequent steps to make it law are considered formality.

"This law is aimed at contributing to realizing the values of animal rights, which pursue respect for life and a harmonious co-existence between humans and animals," the legislation reads.

The bill would make the slaughtering, breeding, trade and sales of dog meat for human consumption illegal from 2027 and punish such acts with 2-3 years in prison. But it doesn't stipulate penalties for eating dog meat.

The bill would offer assistance to farmers and others in the industry for shutting down their businesses or shifting to alternatives. Details of outlawing the industry would be worked out among government officials, farmers, experts and animal rights activists, according to the bill.

Humane Society International called the legislation's passage "history in the making."

"I never thought I would see in my lifetime a ban on the cruel dog meat industry in South Korea, but this historic win for animals is testament to the passion and determination of our animal protection movement," said JungAh Chae, executive director of HSI's Korea office.

The legislation left farmers extremely upset and frustrated.

"This is a clear state violence as they're infringing upon freedom of occupational option. We can't just sit idly," said Son Won Hak, a farmer and leader of a farmers' association.

Son said dog farmers will file a petition to the constitutional court and launch rallies in protest. He said farmers will meet Wednesday to discuss other future steps.

There is no reliable official data on the exact size of South Korea's dog meat industry. Activists and farmers say hundreds of thousands of dogs are slaughtered for meat each year in South Korea.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]