Barking Up a New Law: South Korea Bans Dog Meat Sales and Consumption


A new milestone in South Korea’s animal welfare movement was reached on Tuesday when parliament passed a groundbreaking rule to prohibit the sale and consumption of canine meat. This decision represents a significant step towards putting an end to the longstanding practice of dog meat consumption in the country. The ban, which will take full effect in 2027, is expected to bring about positive changes in both legislation and public perception surrounding this controversial issue.

Support for the ban was overwhelming, with both the ruling party and the opposition in parliament favoring the proposal. Lawmakers recognized the need to reflect changing attitudes towards animals and to protect the welfare of dogs, which are regarded as companions and family members by many in South Korea. The newly enacted regulation criminalizes the sale, distribution, and breeding of dogs for their meat, sending a powerful message that the country is committed to eradicating this practice.

To soften the blow for those involved in the dog meat industry, the government has pledged to provide incentives and support for individuals to transition to alternative occupations. Government subsidies will be offered to help workers find new employment opportunities, enabling them to make a livelihood outside of the dog meat trade. This approach fosters a sense of unity and understanding, recognizing that change requires support from all stakeholders involved.

Notably, South Koreans themselves have been actively reducing their consumption of dog meat in recent years. This cultural shift is particularly evident amongst the elderly population, who have traditionally been more receptive to consuming dog meat. As society becomes increasingly aware of animal welfare concerns, the demand for dog meat has significantly declined. A recent study conducted by Animal Welfare Awareness indicated that more than 90% of respondents had abstained from eating dog meat in the past year and had no intentions of doing so in the future. This represents a significant shift in public sentiment towards the issue.

While the ban is undoubtedly a positive step forward, it does pose certain challenges for those currently involved in the dog meat industry. South Korea is estimated to have around 1,150 dog breeding farms, along with 34 butchers, 219 wholesalers, and approximately 1,600 eateries that sell foods prepared using canine meat. The implementation of the prohibition will impact over 3,500 dog breeding farms, which collectively raise 1.5 million dogs, as well as 3,000 restaurants. The government acknowledges the difficulties faced by these businesses and is committed to ensuring a smooth transition by providing financial and practical support.

The movement to ban dog meat received a significant boost when former President Moon Jae-in proposed the ban in 2021. His administration, along with other influential figures, played a vital role in garnering public support for this initiative. In particular, former President Yoon Suk-yeol, known for his love of animals and his adoption of ten cats and six dogs, contributed to raising awareness of the cruel and unnecessary nature of the dog meat trade. The active participation and advocacy of influential figures, such as the first lady, Kim Keon Hee, who publicly voiced her opposition to dog meat consumption, have amplified the call to end this practice.

Although efforts to ban dog meat consumption have faced opposition and protests in the past, the momentum for change is demonstrating an unstoppable force. In November 2023, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the president’s residence to demand the repeal of a bill that sought to perpetuate this deeply ingrained cultural tradition. The voice of the people has resounded loudly, echoing the urgent need to recognize the rights of animals and prioritize their well-being.

In conclusion, South Korea’s decision to ban the sale and consumption of canine meat represents a milestone in the country’s animal welfare movement. The passage of this rule demonstrates a significant shift in public mentality, as South Koreans increasingly recognize the value of treating dogs as companions rather than as sources of food. While the ban poses challenges for those involved in the dog meat industry, the government’s commitment to providing support and incentives ensures a just and compassionate transition. As the ban takes full effect in 2027, South Korea paves the way for a more compassionate future, where animals are regarded as sentient beings deserving of respect and protection.