Anti-dog meat legislation looks doomed as Assembly session ends in vain

Bomi Yoon

Animal rights activists protest in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, Saturday, urging lawmakers to pass the anti-dog meat legislation by the end of the year as promised by the main parties. Courtesy of Coalition for End to Dog Meat Consumption

Animal rights activists protest in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, Saturday, urging lawmakers to pass the anti-dog meat legislation by the end of the year as promised by the main parties. Courtesy of Coalition for End to Dog Meat Consumption

Ruling party, animal activists urge for passage of legislation in extra plenary session by end of year

By Lee Hae-rin

A legislative move to ban the consumption of dog meat is losing steam as rival parties have yet to reach a consensus over the issue amid fierce opposition from dog meat traders.

According to political circles and animal activists, Sunday, the anti-dog meat bill is still pending at the National Assembly, as the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) is refusing to cooperate with the ruling People Power Party (PPP) over the legislation at the Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans and Fisheries Committee.

For the bill to pass in the 21st Assembly as promised by both parties, it needs to pass the standing committee and the Legislation and Judiciary Committee before finally winning a majority of votes by present lawmakers at the extra plenary sessions, slated for Dec. 20, 28 and Jan. 9 next year.

The ruling party stressed that the legislation must pass during the extra plenary sessions next week.

“The ban on dog meat consumption needs to be finalized in the 21st National Assembly. The subject has been controversial for decades and went through long debates, so the Assembly must achieve a fruitful result,” the PPP’s chief policymaker Rep. Yu Eui-dong said, Friday, as the Assembly’s regular annual session concluded without a result.

The slow progress comes amid strong opposition from dog meat farmers and traders against the plan by the government and political parties to shut down the contentious industry.

The dog meat traders have been demanding seven trillion won ($5.3 billion) in compensation for the industry, claiming there are over 3,500 dog meat farms nationwide each raising around 700 dog meat on average. The figure is larger than shown in a government survey, which said that only 1,150 farms exist in the country, raising 520,000 dogs.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs which oversees the trade and consumption of dogs, has a 17.4 trillion won budget planned for next year, which is only slightly higher than this year’s 16.8 trillion won budget.

Farmed dogs are held in a cage on a truck owned by members of the dog meat farmers' association, Nov. 30, during the group's protest against a legislative move to ban the trade and consumption of dog meat in front of the presidential office in Seoul. The group's move to release around 100 dogs during the protest was prevented by the police for safety reasons. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Farmed dogs are held in a cage on a truck owned by members of the dog meat farmers’ association, Nov. 30, during the group’s protest against a legislative move to ban the trade and consumption of dog meat in front of the presidential office in Seoul. The group’s move to release around 100 dogs during the protest was prevented by the police for safety reasons. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

This year, Korea came closest to legally ending the fading and controversial tradition of eating dog meat.

The rival parties announced, last month, that ending the trade was a main political agenda before the general elections next year.

Five proposed bills are pending at the National Assembly, which contain roadmaps to shut down the industry and assist and fund the transition of farmers to alternative vocations.

In response to the slow legislative process, a coalition of 40 animal advocacy groups held a protest in front of the National Assembly, Saturday, to condemn the lawmakers.

“The people’s anticipation for ending dog meat consumption was more eager than ever this year. Despite the government and political parties’ promise to pass the special act, the bill failed to cross the threshold of the standing committee until the last day of the National Assembly’s regular session,” the groups said in a joint statement.

The activists said that any further delay in passing the legislation could usher dog meat traders to claim even greater compensation, which they view as absurd.

An overwhelming 86 percent of Koreans do not plan to eat dog meat in the future, while 57 percent supported the ban on the dog meat trade, according to a survey by Nielsen Korea, which was commissioned by Humane Society International Korea.

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