Traders up in arms over gov’t plan to end dog meat consumption

Group’s attempt to use live canines as props in demonstration is animal cruelty: activists

By Lee Hae-rin lhr@koreatimes.co.kr

Hundreds of Korean dog meat farmers and traders from across the country gathered near the presidential office, Thursday, to make frantic last-ditch efforts against the government’s plan to shut down their cruel industry.

“Korea is a democratic country that grants in its Constitution the people’s right to choose what to eat and freedom to choose their profession. We have done nothing wrong but work hard all our lives as diligent providers of dog meat to the nation and we urge the government to protect the rights of us, the farmers!” said Ju Yeong-bong, secretary-general of the Korean Association of Edible Dog, an association with nearly 1,000 members nationwide.

The group also brought a dozen trucks loaded with nearly 100 canines, after making previous threats to bring 2 million.

According to animal advocacy groups, this is not the first time the group has used live animals as props in its demonstrations.

“The group is holding these animals captive in confined spaces for hours, possibly without any water or food, as they have done multiple times in the past,” Jeung Seung-yong, leader of the local animal advocacy group Catch Dog, told The Korea Times next to trucks loaded with canines. He said his group plans to sue the dog farmers for animal cruelty.

Lee Sang-kyung, a campaigner at Humane Society International (HSI) Korea, also criticized the protesters’ cruel practice as “distasteful shock tactics that show no regard for animal welfare.”

The group repeatedly threatened to release the dogs during the rally. But police prevented that from happening for safety reasons.

The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in May that the association’s deployment of canines during demonstrations was an act of animal cruelty and advised the group to use photos or replicas instead.

At around 2 p.m., about an hour into the rally, a clash broke out between protesters and police, knocking over a guardrail. The group’s president, Kim Byeong-guk and two other members were taken to Yongsan Police Station under the allegation of violating the law on assembly and demonstration.

The heated protest came after the government and political parties pushed to end the country’s fading and contentious tradition of eating dog meat.

First lady Kim Keon Hee repeatedly vowed to end dog meat consumption during President Yoon Suk Yeol’s term, while the rival parties set an end to the dog meat trade as their main political agenda before the general elections next year. Each has proposed bills which are pending at the National Assembly.

The two parties seek to pass a legislative ban that contains a roadmap to assist and fund the farmers’ transition to alternative professions by year-end, which the group argues goes against the public consensus and threatens their livelihoods.

According to a government study last year, there are 1,150 dog farms in Korea raising over 520,000 dogs for consumption, which is a dramatic 35 percent drop compared to five years ago.

The dog meat traders, however, claim there are over 3,500 dog farms nationwide.

Dog meat consumption has also declined dramatically in recent years, many surveys show. Only 22 percent of Koreans consume or have consumed dog meat, while 13 percent said they still plan to consume dog meat, according to a survey last year by Chun Myung-sun, a professor of veterinary medicine at Seoul National University.

“Resisting this ban won’t change the indisputable fact that the vast majority of people in South Korea don’t eat dog meat … Transitioning to crop growing at a time when South Korea just launched a national strategy to promote plant-based eating would be a truly visionary approach, supporting farmers in choosing to be a part of the country’s future food plan instead of anchoring them in the past,” HSI Korea campaigner Lee said.






The Korea Times Co.