South Korea moved one crucial step closer to condemning its dog meat trade to history this week, with the last three dog meat shops in Seoul agreeing to stop all slaughter for dog meat within the capital city.
“We will maintain the city as a slaughter-free place to promote the dignity of animal coexistence. If Seoul slaughter activity occurs again, we will use all means to block it,” Mayor Park Won-soon, who, along with the Seoul city government campaigned for a year to end dog slaughter there, told reporters at an event to celebrate the closing.
This is great news for our Humane Society International campaign, which has been working on the ground in South Korea since 2015 to end the dog meat trade there. Our campaign combines consumer education, public outreach and hands-on rescue. We are also working with local partner groups to urge the government to end this controversial industry and shining a spotlight on this trade through our dog meat farm closures.
We are excited to see that our efforts are helping move the needle on ending this trade that so many around the world — and in South Korea — view with horror.
While consuming dog meat remains legal in Korea, and dog meat can still be sold in Seoul, the fact that politicians like Mayor Won-soon are taking a stand against it shows just how far we have come in shifting political and public perceptions about dog meat. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In, a dog lover, set the strongest possible precedent for this when he adopted a dog who was fated to end up on a dog meat farm, soon after taking office in 2017. The president‘s administration has also agreed to consider removing dogs and cats from the legal definition of livestock.
Millions of dogs are raised on farms to be slaughtered for food in Korea, and they are killed mercilessly, mostly by electrocution. As more South Koreans become aware of this cruelty, the demand for dog meat has been declining rapidly within the country, especially among younger generations. A survey by Gallup Korea last year showed that 70% of South Koreans say they will not eat dog meat in the future.
The work we are doing with our Korean partners has produced other notable successes. In 2016, officials in the city of Seongnam announced that they would permanently shutter the dog meat stores of Moran Market, South Korea’s largest dog meat venue. Last November, Taepyeong, the country’s largest dog slaughterhouse, closed. And in July this year, HSI/Korea assisted in the closure of one of the country’s biggest dog meat markets, the Gupo market, where live dogs were killed to order.
So far, HSI has also closed down 15 dog meat farms in South Korea, as part of a pioneering program that helps farmers transition out of this trade and into more humane enterprises. We have transported more than 1,800 dogs from these farms to shelter and rescue partners in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, for a chance at new lives as beloved companion animals. We periodically release videos showing these dogs thriving in their new homes.
The dog farmers we work with are increasingly keen to exit this controversial trade due to societal shame, family pressure and decreasing profits. With these closures, we are creating a blueprint that can help the Korean government close down the thousands of other dog meat farms that still exist in the country, while helping the farmers continue making a livelihood.
We are committed to seeing an end to the brutal dog meat trade in South Korea and everywhere else it exists, and we will stay the course in this fight. No dog should be forced to lead a miserable life in a bleak cage, devoid of love and companionship, waiting to die. The news from Seoul this week gives us hope that we are closer than ever to that day.