South Korea mulls changes to take dogs off list of livestock

Consumption of dog meat falling but still popular among older people

A member of Humane Society International with a dog in a cage at a dog farm during a rescue in Namyangju on the outskirts of Seoul in 2017. Photograph:Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

A member of Humane Society International with a dog in a cage at a dog farm during a rescue in Namyangju on the outskirts of Seoul in 2017. Photograph:Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

 

The South Korean government is considering changing the law to remove dogs from the list of livestock in response to growing calls to ban the eating of dog meat, but outlawing the practice may take some time and more debate, an official said.

While canine meat consumption has fallen in recent years, it remains common among older people, especially during the summer heat, when eating a spicy dog meat soup, or bosintang, is seen as a way of boosting virility to cope with the heat.

Dog is a delicacy on both sides of the border and the whole Korean peninsula is currently experiencing record high temperatures of about 40 degrees in many places.

Dog meat consumption spikes on the three “dog days “ in the lunar calendar which occur on the three “sambok” or hottest days – this year on July 17th and 27th, and August 16th.

Animal rights activists claim thousands of dogs are slaughtered every day.

Dogs bred for consumption are categorised differently from domestic pets and have a different name, “nureongi”.

“The government will consider revising the related regulations so dogs may be removed from the list of livestock,” said Choi Jae-kwan, an agriculture official in president Moon Jae-in’s government.

Petition

A public petition calling for a change posted on the website of the presidential office, the Cheong Wa Dae or Blue House, had received more than 200,000 “likes” in less than a month, but further discussion would have to take place.

“We must also consider the livelihoods of people engaged in the related business . . . we expect the system to change gradually in line with social discussions,” the official said, quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

There are an estimated 6,000 dog farms scattered around South Korea.

A survey in 2004 showed nearly 90 per cent of people were against banning the sale of dog meat, although a survey this year showed only 18.5 per cent were actually in favour of eating dog meat.

Last month, Mr Moon’s black mongrel Tori became the public face of a campaign to discourage the eating of dog meat.

The Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth group issued soft toys in Tori’s likeness with the slogan “I’m not food” and the dog was brought to the event in Seoul by the president’s daughter Dae-hye.

Improving animal rights was one of Mr Moon’s election promises. He adopted Tori last year after he saw the dog during the campaign trail.

Tori had been raised to be eaten before he was rescued. The president’s family also has a Pungsan, a breed of Korean hunting dog, called Maru and a cat named Jjing-jjing, who was also rescued from an animal shelter.