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South Korea to ban dog meat trade

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Across an estimated 1,100 breeding farms in South Korea, up to 570,000 dogs are farmed and consumed annually*. This widespread practice, however, is set to change with the country’s announcement of an official ban on the slaughter and sale of dogs for their meat that will come into effect in 2027. 

The longstanding practice of consuming dog meat in Korea has consistently faced criticism internationally. However, there’s also a growing resistance to it within the country, especially among younger Koreans. A 2022 Gallup Korea poll showed 64% of Koreans opposed dog meat consumption, with only 8% of respondents having eaten dogs within the past year, down from 27% in 2015. When commenting on the ban, Chae Jung-ah, the director of Humane Society International Korea, said “This is history in the making I never thought I would see in my lifetime…we reached a tipping point where most Korean citizens reject eating dogs.”

However, the new law has been met with protests from those in the dog meat industry who oppose the ban, advocating for a gradual, natural phase-out of the practice.

At GoFido, we share the widespread incredulity and outrage on this topic. But this cultural difference prompts the question: Why has eating dog meat been a practice in South Korea?

The consumption of dogs dates back to ancient times. It was more than just food; it was part of cultural rituals. Particularly during Boknal, the sweltering summer days, consuming dog meat was believed to offer vitality and help regulate body temperature. This practice was intertwined with seasonal traditions, reflecting a different era’s relationship with nature and health.

Traditional Korean medicine once saw dog meat as a source of health benefits. It was believed to boost stamina and virility, among other things. While modern science doesn’t back these claims, these beliefs were deeply rooted in folk medicine and cultural practices.

During wars and economic hardships, when other meat sources were scarce, Koreans turned to dog meat as a vital protein source. This was particularly notable during and after the Korean War. In times of scarcity, survival often dictated dietary choices.

In the Western world, dogs are primarily seen as companions or working animals, making the idea of consuming dog meat a taboo. However, in Korean and certain other East Asian cultures, this taboo doesn’t or at least didn’t exist in the same way. 

For dog lovers everywhere, South Korea’s shift in viewing dogs as pets rather than food is a hugely welcome change. However, South Korea is not the only nation with this practice. In countries like China and Vietnam, the consumption of dogs reaches into the millions each year. It is also a tradition in the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia as well. African countries, including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, and the Republic of Congo, also consume dog meat. Most surprisingly, not far from the UK, in some rural areas of Switzerland, dog meat is still part of traditional dishes. Four Paws, the global animal welfare organisation, commented “We hope that this momentous decision by the South Korean Government will send a clear message to other countries, that it’s finally time for the dog meat trade to be abolished for good.”

*Source: South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

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