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By Hyonhee Shin
South Korea’s parliament is expected to vote on Tuesday to phase out the eating and selling of dog meat, a move that would end the controversial centuries-old practice amid growing support for animal welfare in the country.
Eating dog meat was once seen as a way to improve stamina in the humid Korean summer. But it has become a rarity – now eaten mostly by some older people – as more Koreans consider dogs as family pets and as criticism of how the dogs are slaughtered has grown.
Activists say most dogs are electrocuted or hanged when slaughtered for meat, though breeders and traders argue there has been progress in making the slaughtering more humane.
Support for the ban has grown under President Yoon Suk Yeol, an animal lover who has adopted numerous stray dogs and cats with first lady Kim Keon Hee, also a vocal critic of dog meat consumption.
Proposed by the ruling party, the bill gained the nod from parliament’s bipartisan agriculture committee on Monday for a vote in the 300-member, single-chamber assembly.
If passed, the legislation will take effect after a three-year grace period. Breaking the law would be punishable by up to three years in prison or 30 million won ($22,900) in fines.
“The bill would see an end to the breeding and killing of dogs for human consumption,” said Borami Seo of Humane Society International Korea, an animal protection group. “We have reached a pivotal point to spare millions of dogs from this cruel industry.”
In a survey released on Monday by Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education, a Seoul-based think tank, more than 94% of respondents said they had not eaten dog meat for the past year and about 93% said they would not do so in the future.
Previous efforts to prohibit dog meat have failed in the face of industry protests, and the bill seeks to provide compensation so that businesses can move out of the trade.
In November, a group of about 200 breeders of dogs for consumption held a rally near the presidential office, demanding the bill be scrapped.
The agriculture ministry has estimated that as of April 2022 that some 1,100 farms were breeding 570,000 dogs to be served at around 1,600 restaurants.
The Korean Association of Edible Dogs, a coalition of breeders and sellers, said the ban will affect 3,500 farms raising 1.5 million dogs as well as 3,000 restaurants.
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