Dog meat farmers in South Korea are resisting increasing moves to ban their industry

Dog meat farmers in South Korea are resisting increasing moves to ban their industry

Pyeongtaek, South Korea (AP) Dogs bark and stare as Kim Jong-gil approaches the rusty cages housing the large, short-haired animals he sells for their meat. Kim opens a door and grabs one dog’s neck and chest.

Kim says he is proud of the dog meat farm that has supported his family for 27 years, but he is troubled by the increasing attempts by politicians and activists to ban the business, which he hands over to his children.

“It’s more than just feeling bad. I totally oppose these moves, and we will mobilize all our means to resist them,” Kim, 57, said in an interview at his farm in the city of Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul.

Consuming dog meat is a centuries-old practice on the Korean Peninsula that has long been seen as a source of stamina on hot summer days. It is not explicitly banned or legalized in South Korea, but more and more people want to ban it. There is a growing public awareness of animal rights and concerns about South Korea’s international image.

The anti-dog meat campaign recently received a major boost when the country’s First Lady expressed support for the ban and two lawmakers introduced bills to crack down on the dog meat trade.

Foreigners think of South Korea as a cultural powerhouse. Han Gyeonghae, an opposition lawmaker who introduced legislation to ban the dog meat industry last month, said the more Korean culture raises its international profile, the more traumatic foreigners face over consuming dog meat.

Prospects for passing the anti-dog meat law are clouded by protests from farmers, restaurant owners, and others involved in the dog meat industry. Surveys show that one in three South Koreans oppose such a ban, even though most people don’t eat dog meat anymore.

Dogs are also eaten In China, Vietnam, Indonesia, North Korea and some African countries, including Ghana, Cameroon, Congo and Nigeria.

earlier this month, Indonesian authorities announced The end of the slaughter of dogs and cats in an animal market on the island of Sulawesi, after a years-long campaign by local activists and world celebrities. The Tomohon Extreme Market will become the first of its kind in Indonesia to be free of dog and cat meat, according to cruel animal control group Humane Society International.

South Korea’s dog meat industry is getting more international attention due to its reputation as a very wealthy and modern democracy. It is also the only country with plantations on an industrial scale. Most farms in South Korea have more than 500 dogs, according to the Dog Farmers Association.

During a recent visit, Kim’s farm, one of the largest in the country and home to 7,000 dogs, appeared relatively clean but there was a strong stench in some areas. All dogs are kept in raised cages and fed leftovers and minced chicken. They are rarely released for sport and are usually sold for meat one year after they are born.

Kim said two of his sons, ages 29 and 31, run the farm with him, and that business is doing well. He said dogs raised for their meat are different from pets, an idea campaigners oppose.

It is now difficult to find dog meat restaurants in the bustling downtown of Seoul, although many are still emerging from the countryside.

“I only earn a third of the money I used to make. Young people don’t come here. Only sick old people come for lunch,” said Yoon Cho-wol, 77, owner of a dog meat restaurant in Seoul’s traditional Gyeongdong Market. My elderly customers are to come and eat my food more frequently before it is banned.”

Farmers also face increased scrutiny from officials and increasingly negative public opinion. They complain that officials visit them repeatedly in response to complaints by activists and citizens about allegations of animal abuse and other wrongdoing. Kim said more than 90 such petitions were filed against his farm in the last four months.

Soon Won-hak, general secretary of the Dog Farmers Association, said that many farms have collapsed in recent years due to low dog meat prices and weak demand. This is believed to be the result of activist campaigns and unfair media reports focusing on farms with substandard conditions. However, some observers say dog ​​meat consumption is already declining, with young adults moving away from it.

“Honestly, I would like to quit my job tomorrow. We cannot confidently tell our children that we are raising dogs,” Sun said. “When my friends called me, they said, are you still running a dog meat farm? Isn’t that illegal?”

The number of farms across South Korea has fallen by half from a few years ago to about 3,000 to 4,000, and about 700,000 to 1 million dogs are slaughtered each year, down from several million 10 to 20 years ago, according to the dog farmers’ organization. Some activists argue that farmers’ estimates are an exaggeration intended to show that their industry is too big to destroy.

In late 2021, South Korea launched a government and civilian working group to consider banning dog meat at the suggestion of then-President Moon Jae-in, who is a pet lover. The committee, which includes farmers and animal rights activists, met more than 20 times but reached no agreement, apparently due to disagreements over compensation issues.

Agriculture officials declined to disclose discussions in the closed-door meetings. They said the government wanted to end the consumption of dog meat based on the general consensus.

In April, First Lady Kim Kyun Hee, wife of current President Yoon Sok Yul, said in a meeting with activists that she hoped to An end to dog meat consumption. Participants responded with rallies and formal complaints against Kim for allegedly harming their livelihoods.

Hahn, the lawmaker, said she “evaluates very positively” the influencers who have spoken out against dog meat consumption.

Hahn said her bill provides support programs for farmers who agree to close their farms. It said they would be entitled to money to dismantle their facilities, vocational training, employment assistance and other benefits.

Farmers want to continue for another 20 years until the old people, their main customers, die, allowing the industry to disappear naturally, said Jo Yong-bong, an official at the Farmers’ Union. Observers say most of the farmers are also in their 60s and 70s.

Borami Seo, director of the South Korean office of the Humane Society International, said she opposes the killing of millions of dogs for this long. “Letting this silent cruelty to (dogs) be perpetrated in South Korea makes no sense,” Seo said.

“(Consumption of dog meat) is very outdated, has elements of animal cruelty and hinders our national growth,” said Chun Jin-kyung, president of Animal Rights Defense Korea in Seoul.

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