During a meeting with Prime Minister Kim Boo-kuym on Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in he said he wanted to ban the consumption of dog meat in the country, a centuries-old tradition that is still widely practiced both in South Korea and in other parts of East Asia. In the last few years consumption of dog meat in South Korea has dropped both because of the commitment of animal rights activists associations, and because many have begun to consider dogs more and more as a pet. However, it is estimated that around 1 million dogs destined to be eaten are still killed in the country every year.
Moon is a dog lover and in the presidential residence with him live several, including Tory, whom he had saved from slaughter and which he had brought with him shortly after becoming president. in 2017. Before then, Moon had promised among other things it would have banned the trade in dogs for food consumption. After being elected, however, he had taken a half step backwards, saying that this type of trade would be gradually abandoned.
The president’s office explained Monday that Moon addressed the issue while he was discussing with Kim about a plan to improve the management of abandoned animals. According to his spokesperson, Moon asked the prime minister if the “time has come to consider wisely to ban the consumption of dog meat.”
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Dog meat has been eaten in South Korea for centuries. It was an important source of food in times of hunger – particularly during the Japanese occupation (between 1910 and 1945) and the Korean War (between 1950 and 1953) – and continued to be consumed even after the end of the conflicts. Dogs could be raised easily and there were many more than, for example, cattle, which were used mainly to pull carts or plow fields.
Even today in the country there are more than three thousand restaurants serving soups and dog meat drinks, especially between July and August, in the hottest time of the year.
Between dishes the most popular are the start – a boiled meat soup is considered invigorating – and the gaesoju, a drink made by boiling dog meat with various herbs. It is estimated that every year to make these recipes in South Korea they come bred about two and a half million dogs, often in conditions described as terrible: mostly they are nureongi and Korean mastiffs, but there are also Jindo and crossbreeds, to which are added purebred dogs that are abandoned by their masters and then introduced to the breeding.
Among other things, according to activist associations, the active farms in South Korea are many more than the 4 thousand indicated in the official data, which does not include the hundreds of highly abusive farms and kennels. suspected of selling dogs to slaughterhouses, contributing to the illegal meat trade.
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From a legal point of view, then, the breeding of dogs for slaughter in South Korea is in one gray area. Dog meat is recognized as food by law, but dog farms are not equated with livestock farms and therefore are not required to follow the rules laid down for that sector. Furthermore, the law on the protection of animals in force since 1991 prohibits the “cruel” killing of animals other than livestock, but even though it implicitly refers to the slaughter of dogs and cats, it does not prohibit or limit their consumption, and over the years it has not led to greater regulation of farms and slaughterhouses.
The decline in consumption observed in recent years is partly due to cultural factors, and partly to the commitment of animal welfare associations, including the Korea Animal Welfare Association, the largest in the country, who denounced the poor hygienic conditions of the farms and helped save thousands of animals from slaughter.
In 2018, citing data provided by the metropolitan government of the country’s capital, the Korea Times he had told that nearly 40 percent of Seoul restaurants serving dog meat had closed in the previous ten years.
a survey commissioned by the environmental and animal welfare organization Humane Society International (HSI), and carried out in the summer of 2020 by the consultancy Nielsen, it instead found that 84 per cent of those surveyed had never eaten or intended to eat dog meat. 59 percent of respondents said they were in favor of the ban on consuming it: 24 percent more than those who said they were in favor of the ban in 2017, three years earlier.
In addition to South Korea, dog meat is also consumed in other Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand. Its consumption is widespread in some areas of China, where according to the searches of the HSI, at least one-third of the approximately 30 million dogs estimated to be killed each year for food are killed, along with 4 million of the 10 million cats that go the same way around the world.
In April 2020 the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture had proposed a draft law to ban the consumption of dog meat, citing both the “progress of human civilization” and other reasons: in particular, concerns for the welfare of animals and those for the possibility of transmission of diseases from animals to humans, for example through “wet market”, The food markets spread throughout East Asia where in some cases wild animals are sold, often still alive and in precarious hygienic conditions.
On that occasion, the ministry had removed the dogs from the herd list, referring to them as “special pets”; in the same days the city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, had become the first Chinese city to introduce a ban on the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat. For the moment, however, there are no detailed data to assess the impact these restrictions have had on the consumption of dog meat in China.