A decade ago, at a Korean railroad station, a tour guide directed a visiting reporter away from a small cafe, saying only “boshintang” was on the menu.  The reporter later learned that “boshintang” is dog meat stew, which older Koreans consider traditional food and something of a delicacy.

But younger South Koreans are more likely to have dogs as pets than for dinner, and this week, the South Korean National Assembly overwhelmingly voted to make the slaughter and sale of dogs for their meat illegal beginning in 2027.

The law targets the dog meat trade by making it illegal to slaughter dogs for their meat or raise dogs for their meat, with two and three-year prison terms possible for those found guilty of such offenses.

Eating dog meat won’t be illegal under the new law, but the plan is to shut down the industry that makes it possible.

South Korea has 1,600 restaurants serving dog meat from 1,130 dog farms as of 2023.  All of those establishments must file phase-out plans. The government will financially assist those businesses as a bridge until they find alternative sources of employment and income.

The three-year phase-out comes as the popularity of dog meat declines in South Korea as human food declines. A Gallup poll in 2023 found only 8 percent of the respondents had tried dog meat in the last 12 months, and fewer than one out of five supported the consumption.

“South Korea’s dog meat ban is a dream come true. This change overjoys us, and we thank lawmakers and local activists who have worked tirelessly to see this become a reality despite the dangers and pushback,” said Fleur Dawes, Director of Communications and International Partnerships for In Defense of Animals. “Countless dogs will now be spared a horrifying death in the dog meat trade. We will continue our vital work during the phaseout period to save as many innocent lives as possible.”

It’s estimated that around 1 million dogs are still being raised and killed for dog meat annually in South Korea.  The new law allows for a three-year period to phase out the industry. It requires businesses involved, such as dog farms, butchers, traders, and restaurants, to register their businesses with local authorities to receive financial support.

In December 2023, the Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans, and Fisheries Committee of the Korean National Assembly passed the Special Bill on the Breeding, Slaughter, and Distribution of Dogs for Consumption and Ending Dog Meat Consumption.

On Jan. 8, the Legislation and Judiciary Committee voted to pass the bill. On Jan. 9, the National Assembly passed the ban, with 99 percent of Assembly members voting in favor.

Animal activists have worked for 20 years to end the dog meat trade in South Korea.

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