Dog meat farmers push back on regulations in South Korea

HYUNGJIN KIM | Associated Press
The dogs bark and stare as Kim Jong-kil approaches the rusty cages housing the large, short-haired animals he sells for their meat. Kim opens a door and pets one dog’s neck and chest.

Kim says he’s proud of the dog meat farm that has supported his family for 27 years, but is upset over growing attempts by politicians and activists to outlaw the business, which he is turning over to his children.

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

Dog meat consumption is a centuries-old practice on the Korean Peninsula and has long been viewed as a source of stamina on hot summer days. It’s neither explicitly banned nor legalized in South Korea, but more and more people want it prohibited. There’s increasing public awareness of animal rights and worries about South Korea’s international image.

The anti-dog meat campaign recently received a big boost when the country’s first lady expressed her support for a ban and two lawmakers submitted bills to eliminate the dog meat trade.

“Foreigners think South Korea is a cultural powerhouse. But the more K-culture increases its international standing, the bigger shock foreigners experience over our dog meat consumption,” said Han Jeoungae, an opposition lawmaker who submitted legislation to outlaw the dog meat industry last month.

Prospects for passage of an anti-dog meat law are unclear because of protests by farmers, restaurant owners and others involved in the dog meat industry. Surveys suggest that one in three South Koreans opposes such a ban, 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.

Last month, Indonesian authorities announced the end of dog and cat slaughter at an animal market on the island of Sulawesi following a years-long campaign by local activists and world celebrities. The Tomohon Extreme Market will become the first such market in Indonesia to go dog and cat meat-free, according to the anti-animal cruelty group Humane Society International.

South Korea’s dog meat industry receives more international attention because of its reputation as a wealthy, ultra-modern democracy. It is also the only nation with industrial-scale farms. Most farms in South Korea have more than 500 dogs, according to a dog farmers’ association.

During a recent visit, Kim’s farm, one of the country’s largest with 7,000 dogs, appeared relatively clean but there was a strong stench in some areas. All dogs are kept in elevated cages and are fed with food waste and ground chicken. They are rarely released for exercise and typically are sold for meat one year after they are born.

Kim said two of his children, ages 29 and 31, are running the farm with him, and that business has been going pretty well. He said the dogs bred for their meat are different from pets, an idea opposed by activists.

It’s difficult now to find dog meat restaurants in Seoul’s bustling downtown, though many still exit in the countryside.

“I only earn one-third of the money I used to make. Young people don’t come here. Only ailing old people come for lunch,” said Yoon Chu-wol, 77, the owner of a dog meat restaurant in Seoul’s Kyungdong traditional market. “I tell my elderly customers to come and eat my food more frequently before it’s banned.”

Farmers also face growing scrutiny from officials and increasingly negative public opinion. They complain that officials visit them repeatedly in response to complaints filed by activists and citizens over alleged animal abuse and other wrongdoing. Kim said more than 90 such petitions were filed against his farm during a recent four-month span.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top