A Matter of Taste
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Bruno, Max, Mia, Nana, Raspberry, Roxy, Trudy, and Zelda were not originally supposed to find loving homes in the US. These dogs were bound for dinner tables in South Korea – until a farmer decided to give up his 200 canines and started growing cabbages and other vegetables instead, reported WUSA Channel 9, a local news broadcaster and CBS affiliate in Washington, DC.
The farmer might have experienced a change of heart because South Koreans increasingly don’t want dog meat to appear on their menus, or see them – mangy and obviously neglected – crowded in cages in their markets.
Consuming canines is an ancient custom in much of East Asia. Of the approximately 30 million dogs slaughtered annually for consumption, South Korea consumes around 2 million, according to National Geographic. Around 3,500 farms in the country breed dogs for their meat, added the Straits Times.
First consumed to avoid starvation, South Koreans now view dog meat as a way to cool down in the summer, noted the Animal Welfare Institute. It’s also eaten by men to promote virility. Still, many South Koreans, furthermore, feel ashamed by – but also resent – foreign groups that condemn this unique local cultural tradition, explained the Korea Times.
However, many young South Koreans have adopted the view that eating dogs is cruel and inhumane. First Lady Kim Keon Hee has criticized the tradition. She and President Yoon Suk Yeol adopt stray dogs. Currently, they have six pooches and five cats. “Dog meat consumption should come to an end … in an era when humans and pets coexist as friends,” said Kim at an animal rights gathering in August.
In November, wrote Reuters, the ruling People Power Party policy chief, Yu Eui-dong, called for a ban on eating dog meat to avoid further tensions over the issue. “It is time to put an end to social conflicts and controversies around dog meat consumption through the enactment of a special act to end it,” he said.
The proposed ban would give businesses subsidies to draft phase-out plans, as well as a three-year window to transition away from the industry. Animal rights groups applauded.
“[It’s] a dream come true for all of us who have campaigned so hard to end this cruelty,” Humane Society International South Korea executive director Chae Jung-ah told the Washington Post. “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.”
But the leader of the Korea Dog Meat Farmers’ Association, Joo Young-bong, complained that the government was unfairly destroying an industry whose farmers are usually in their sixties and seventies. In late November, 200 dog farmers protested the proposed ban in Seoul, threatening to release hundreds of their dogs from captivity onto the streets, Time magazine reported.
But as critics of the practice say, the farmers will likely be able to find other animals.