In a major win for Korea's animal advocacy groups, the country's largest dog meat market is shutting down in response to aggressive activism opposing the market's highly controversial animal welfare practices.
The 22-merchant Moran market located in Seongnam, South Korea, was known by locals and—presumably horrified—visitors for the lines of cramped cages that confined the live animals prior to being slaughtered in full view of customers. According to The Independent, dogs were butchered, blowtorched, electrocuted, hanged, and boiled alive in droves by vendors. Some 80,000 animals were executed at the market each year, accounting for a third of all canine meat sold in Korea.
Though considered man's best friend in Western cultures, dogs have historically been a protein source in Korean food culture, including a stew made from canine flesh that is popular in the summer for its purported blood-cooling properties. However, despite this culinary tradition, activists and public figures alike have make continued efforts to limit the sale and consumption of the meat, or at the very least improve upon the dismal animal welfare practices associated with its acquisition and sale.
Campaigners from across the globe have taken to the Moran market to protest its cruel handling of the animals, motivating the Seongnam government to negotiate with market vendors to stop dealing in the taboo meat. In a statement given earlier this week, Mayor Lee Jae-myung quoted Mahatma Gandhi, saying, "Seongnam City will take the initiative to transform South Korea's image since 'the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
While the market's practices weren't considered explicitly illegal by South Korean law—and thus subject to a forced shutdown—Seongnam's officials managed to strike a deal with the existing vendors to ban the sale of the animals and remove all cages, butchery equipment, and slaughtering facilities in the coming days and months.
The city will also provide financial support to the affected vendors, to aid in the refurbishing and repurposing of their market shops for other consumer purposes.
In a statement, Dr. Marilyn Kroplick, president of the animal rights and rescue advocacy group In Defense of Animals, says, "The closure of Korea's most infamous dog meat market at Moran deals a significant blow to the heart of the dog meat trade. Moran market has run with the blood of hundreds of thousands of dogs for many years, so this is a step in the right direction in our fight to end the horrific dog meat trade."
However, Kroplick also notes that while the closure of this brutal operation is a step in the right direction, they anticipate vendors will take their dog butchery operations elsewhere, and that the organization "will not rest until we take dog meat off the menu for good."
In the meantime, canine-loving visitors to the country might want to avoid ordering the stew.