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Scale of the industry

An estimated 2 million dogs are slaughtered and eaten each year in South Korea, according to International Aid for Korean Animals, a registered charity. It stated that over 20,000 restaurants in South Korea serve dog meat as “boshintang (a chunky stew) or gaesoju (a tonic)” which is sold by “as many as 9,000 Gungangwon health food stores”[1]. It estimated the dog meat trade generated $2 billion in revenue annually.

The charity stated that dog meat consumption has a long history in South Korea, but did not become commonplace until the Korean War in the 1950s. It went on that at some point over the last century, the practice of eating dog meat was taken up by a few older men for “mythical health benefits”.[2]  

World Dog Alliance claimed that 60% of South Koreans eat dog meat. However, the demand for dog meat is said to be declining among younger people. It was reported recently that 20% of men in their 20s consume dog meat, indicating a decline in the practice.[3]

Welfare concerns

There are thousands of dog meat farms throughout South Korea, varying in size from small enterprises to large-scale intensive farming systems with thousands of dogs. According to the Change for Animals Foundation, the dogs on these farms “are often kept crammed in row after row of barren cages, and left to stand on metal bars for their entire lives, fed on leftover food waste, and offered little protection from the burning hot sun in the summer or freezing conditions of South Korea’s winter”.[4]

According to the Animal Welfare Institute, a US-based animal welfare charity, it is believed by many South Koreans that the more a dog suffers before it dies, the better the meat will taste owing to the belief that adrenaline in the system makes the meat taste better. Dogs are therefore often subjected to cruelty before being slaughtered. Most farmed dogs live less than a year.[5]

Animal welfare law

According to the Animal Welfare Institute, South Korean law is ambiguous on the legality of the dog meat trade with efforts to reign in the practice being “half-hearted”.[6] The Institute cited one legal analyst as saying:

…there is no clear law governing matters relating to dog meat. While there is no explicit recognition of dog meat as legitimate food and of dogs as animals fit for human consumption, neither is there a clear ban on sale or slaughter of dogs for food.[7]

The charity stated that the dog meat industry persists under the belief that “consumption dogs” differ from “companion dogs”. South Korea’s Animal Protection Amendment Act 2007 prohibits some of the cruel methods used to slaughter the dogs, but the law, according to the charity, is “widely ignored”.

[1]     Dog meat in Korea, International Aid for Korean Animals [accessed August 2016]

[2]     History of dog meat in Korea, International Aid for Korean Animals [accessed August 2016]

[3]     Spared from the cooking pot, 200 dogs bred and kept in cages to be sold as food are rescued from meat farm in South Korea, Daily Mail 27 April 2016

[4]     Ending the Dog Meat Industry in South Korea, Change for Animals Foundation [accessed August 2016]

[5]     The South Korean Dog Meat Trade, Animal Welfare Institute [accessed 9 September 2016]

[6]     The Dog Meat Trade, Animal Welfare institute [accessed August 2016]

[7]     Ibid

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