On Thursday, a South Korean court ruled killing dogs for meal to be illegal—a welcome first step for those seeking a nationwide dog meat ban.
According to the South China Morning Post, the ruling comes from a city court in Bucheon, a town just 12 miles outside of Seoul, the Korean capital. Care, an animal rights group, brought the case against a local dog farm operator whom the group found during a sting operation. The court ruled that meat consumption was not a legal reason to kill dogs, and the operator was fined a total of 3 million won ($2,700 USD). “It is very significant in that it is the first court decision that killing dogs for dog meat is illegal itself,” Care lawyer Kim Kyung-eun told SCMP.
The practice of killing dogs and butchering them for meat has long been a part of South Korean cuisine, with an estimated 1 million dogs eaten every year. Recently, though, dog meat consumption has dropped significantly, as more Koreans have embraced dogs as pets rather than food.
“Over the past decades, public discourse over dog meat consumption has shifted towards banning it,” Care leader Park So-youn said. “The dog meat industry will take greater heat because of the court ruling.”
However, a recent survey found that while 70 percent of South Koreans don’t consume dog meat, only 40 percent of the Korean public thinks the practice should be banned. After the ruling, angry dog farmers came out to protest the Bucheon court decision, citing cultural double standards as their objection.
Cho Hwan-ro, a representative from an association of dog farms, said that the farmers, whose facilities typically double as slaughterhouses, should not accept the ruling on a whim. Instead, Cho called for the Korean government to legalize dog meat consumption and license dog slaughterhouses outright. “Dogs for eating and dogs as pets must be separated,” he said, mentioning that the dogs raised for human consumption in the 170,000 dog farms across the country are different breeds, fed differently and raised for different purposes.
“Cows, pigs, chickens and ducks are all raised to be consumed and why not dogs?”
However, Cho’s views don’t seem to be shared by the South Korean legislature. Just last week, the ruling Democratic party in South Korea introduced legislation that would effectively end dog meat production in South Korea for good. The bill would curtail animal slaughtering to those considered to be ‘livestock’—of which, dogs are not.