Seoul – The South Korean government recently announced its plan to create a task force to ban dog meat consumption in the country. The unconventional practice has gradually become a racist stereotype in the western world that has led to Korean expats living abroad often facing discrimination, bullying, and racism. As a result, President Moon Jae-in suggested that it’s time to consider a ban and create an effective task force including officials, civilian experts, animal rights groups, and other stakeholder representatives to slowly stop the practice of eating dog meat. While the decision was welcomed by several Seoul-based animal protection organizations, many traditional minority groups found this ban a suppression of their freedom.
In this post, I’ll share a brief overview of dog meat consumption in South Korea and some interesting facts and statistics regarding the practice before diving deeper into the topic.
Dog Meat Consumption in South Korea – A Brief Overview
The human consumption of dog meat has been prevalent in different parts of the world, especially in Asian and African countries. While the practice is dislike in Western and Middle Eastern cultures, dog meat remains a popular traditional, cultural, medicinal, or ritualistic food source among South Korean minorities, most notably, the descendants of Khitan refugees in rural communities who came to Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty in 918. Over the decades, the practice has been in constant decline since the ‘80s. Nonetheless, there are still tens of thousands of dogs slaughtered in farms with their meat supplied to local markets and dog meat restaurants. Since 2019, most major farms and markets have been shut down due to declining sales and changing sentiments.
The only dog breed raised specifically for this human consumption is Nureongi. However, many local reports claimed that many different pet breeds of dogs are raised for consumption, including Labradors Retrievers and spaniels. What’s more disturbing is a considerate percentage of the supply chain comprises former pets that are either stolen or abandoned. As far as hygiene is concerned, although dog meat has been subject to the Food Sanitation Act of 1962, unlike beef, pork, poultry, it is excluded from the list of animals under the Livestock Processing Act of the same year. As a result, dog meat farming requires more regulation compare to conventional livestock. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in reality as dogs are slaughtered inhumanely via electrocution, strangulation by hanging, blow-torching, and even direct boiling. Thus, on September 27, 2021, the South Korean president raised the possibility of a ban to curb dog meat consumption after numerous reports of animal cruelty and racial discrimination worldwide.
Facts and Statistics Related to Dog Meat Consumption
- According to a 2020 opinion poll by HIS/Korea, nearly 84% of South Koreans claimed they don’t or won’t eat dog meat. The poll also showed that 60% supported a legislative ban on supply and trade.
- Many dog meat consumers in rural areas claim that dog meat soup cools the body during hot summers and helps build stamina. This belief is popular mainly among the older generation.
- Nearly 1.5 million dogs are raised in South Korea on hundreds of farms around the country, and most of them are sold directly to dog meat restaurants and butchers.
- Dog meat was recently banned in other Asian countries, such as Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and several cities in mainland China. However, over 30 million dogs are still killed and eaten every year in these parts.
More on the Dog Meat Ban in South Korea
Following the president’s official statement, seven government offices, including the Agricultural Ministry decided to launch a task force comprising officials, subject matter experts, and leaders from related organizations to devise a plan to curb the practice. In the initial stages, the task force will gather as much information as possible on dog farms, restaurants, markets, and other facilities in the complex supply chain network. Moreover, they will also thoroughly examine the public’s opinion on the matter before moving further.
Since the statement, hundreds of pet owners from different parts of the country have risen rapidly and spoken publicly on animal cruelty, particularly the inhumane slaughtering practices. With sentiments rapidly changing, dog meat consumption is a fading traditional food culture. As promising as this initiative appears on paper, the government officials have made it clear that it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the banning of dog meat. The joint statement also emphasized the fact that people have the right to eat their preferred foods which makes this a highly complicated issue due to its contradiction with animal rights.
The prime minister mainly accused farmers of illegal activities when they raise and slaughter dogs – something many farmers felt was exaggerated as it only applies to a small number of farms. They claim that the task force is nothing more than a ploy to formally shut down dog meat restaurants due to international image issues. South Korea is the only developed nation in which its citizens consume dog meat, and foreigners will continue to racially profile every South Korean as a dog meat eater until the practice isn’t eradicated.
Dog meat consumption may horrify Americans and people from other parts of the world, but the practice remains a longstanding custom in South Korea and other Asian nations like China and Vietnam. However, norms are rapidly changing thanks to local and international animal rights movements as well as changing sentiments among non-traditional South Koreans. Will this task force effectively ban this unorthodox custom or will it fail to fully eradicate dog meat consumption like Thailand, Cambodia, and Singapore? Only time will tell. For now, dog meat consumption is neither legal nor explicitly banned in the country. This tradition needs to be changed and banned worldwide.
by Bobby J Davidson
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