South Korea will launch a task force to ban dog meat

South Korea said Thursday it will launch a task force to consider banning the consumption of dog meat after the country’s president offered to investigate how to stop the centuries-old practice.

Restaurants serving dog meat are shrinking into South Korea as younger people find dog meat as a less appetizing dining option, and pets are growing in popularity. Recent studies show that more people are against banning dog meat, even though many do not eat it.

In a statement, seven government offices, including the Ministry of Agriculture, said they decided to start the group consisting of officials, civilian experts and people from related organizations to provide recommendations on possibly banning the consumption of dog meat. It said authorities will collect information on dog farms, restaurants and other facilities while investigating public opinion.


Dogs seen in a cage on a dog meat farm in Siheung, South Korea, February 23, 2018. (AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon, File)

“As the number of families with pets has increased rapidly and the public’s interest in animal rights and welfare has grown in our country, there have been growing voices saying that it is now difficult to see dog meat consumption as a traditional food culture, “says the Prime Minister. Kim Boo-kyum, the country’s No. 2 official, said ahead of the statement’s release.

The government says the initiative, the first of its kind, does not necessarily guarantee a ban on dog meat. The joint statement noted that “public awareness of the fundamental right (to eat preferred foods) and animal rights issues is intertwined in a complicated way” when it comes to dog meat consumption.

The seemingly vague attitude provoked rapid protests from both dog farmers and animal rights activists.

South Korean animal rights activists organize a demonstration against South Korean culture by eating dog meat near the President’s Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, on July 16, 2020. (AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon, File)

Farmers say the launch of the task force is nothing more than a formality to shut down their farms and dog meat restaurants, while activists claim the government’s announcement lacks the will to ban dog meat consumption.

Ju Yeongbong, general secretary of an association of dog farmers, accused the government of “trampling on” the people’s right to eat what they want and the farmers’ right to live.

Lee Won Bok, head of the Korea Association for Animal Protection, called the government statement “very disappointing” because it did not contain any concrete plans on how to ban the consumption of dog meat.

“We are deeply in doubt as to whether the government has a decision to put an end to the consumption of dog meat,” Lee said.


About 1 million to 1.5 million dogs are killed each year for food in South Korea, down from several million about 10-20 years ago. Thousands of farmers currently breed a total of about 1 million to 2 million dogs for meat in South Korea, according to the Jus organization.

Ju said the farmers, mostly poor, elderly people, want the government to temporarily legalize dog meat consumption for about 20 years, with the expectation that demand will gradually decline. Lee said animal rights organizations want a faster closure of the business.

“South Korea is the only developed country where people eat dogs, an act that undermines our international image,” Lee said. “Even though the K-pop band BTS and the (Korean drama) Squid Game are ranked No. 1 in the world, foreigners still associate South Korea with dog meat and the Korean War.”

Lee accused many farmers of animal cruelty and other illegal activities while breeding and slaughtering their dogs. Ju said that activists “exaggerated” such information and that it only applies to a small number of farms.

Members of the Korean Dog Meat Association eat dog meat during a meeting to support dog meat eating in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, on July 12, 2019. (AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon, File)

According to Lee, dogs are consumed as food in North Korea, China and Vietnam as well as in South Korea.

In September, during a meeting with the Prime Minister, President Moon Jae-in, a dog lover, asked “whether it is time to carefully consider” a ban on the consumption of dog meat, which sparked a new debate on the issue.


Dog meat is neither legally nor explicitly banned in South Korea.

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