In June, representatives from our organization worked with Democratic Party Assembly Member Jeoung-ae Han to introduce one of what would soon become five separate legislative bills put forward by National Assembly members from multiple parties – an unprecedented show of political consensus on a dog meat industry ban. Han’s bill, and those that followed, showed that the time was right to finally outlaw the breeding, sale and slaughter of dogs for human consumption, prohibiting dog meat farms, dog slaughterhouses and the sale of dog meat throughout markets and restaurants. In every one of those bills, and in today’s government proposal that seeks to consolidate a path forward, a state-funded compensation package for dog farmers and traders provides the key to phasing out this industry.
When we launched our Models for Change program, we aimed to create a blueprint for the government that facilitates the transition of farmers from dog meat to alternative, sustainable livelihoods. We knew that if we demonstrated it was possible to close farms in cooperation instead of in conflict with dog farmers, policy makers would listen. And they have.
The government’s bill provides for a support package for dog farmers which mirrors the structure of our Models for Change program. At the meeting where they discussed their plan with the HSI team and other advocates, the government acknowledged that Korean society has reached a tipping point where most people now reject eating dogs and want to see this suffering consigned to the history books. With growing concern for animal welfare, and over 6 million pet dogs now living in Korean homes, demand for dog meat has dwindled. Latest opinion polls by Nielsen Korea commissioned by HSI show that 86% of South Koreans won’t eat dog meat in the future and 57% support a ban.
Reflecting on the times I’ve been to dog meat farms in South Korea evokes the old feelings of both grief and hope. As we removed cold, terrified dogs from their muddy cages and sent them on their journey to find warm, safe, loving homes, the goal was always to reach a day like today, where there was a chance to save future generations of dogs from this industry.
We have a ways to go and will be looking for your support, but with this unprecedented ministerial roadmap, South Korea’s government has delivered a bold plan that will hopefully expedite the legislative process in the National Assembly.
We know our work is not over, and we will continue to focus our energy on ensuring that the legislation remains as strong as possible to deliver a robust law that reflects what the vast majority of Koreans want – to end the dog meat era and embrace a dog-friendly future.
Follow Kitty Block @HSUSKittyBlock.