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Presidential hopeful reignites debate on dog meat

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Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung, front row second from right, holds a placard that reads,
Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung, front row second from right, holds a placard that reads, "Realizing animal welfare," during a debate on the matter of improving the legal system to ban dog meat consumption, co-hosted by the provincial government and 30 lawmakers, at Eroom Center in Yeouido, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap

Public shows mixed responses over banning dog meat

By Jung Da-min

Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung, a strong presidential hopeful of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), has reignited the debate over the country's dog-eating culture, saying it is time for the country to gather public consensus and establish a law to ban the consumption of the animal.

With his suggestion, the decades-long issue may become a hot button in political circles ahead of the presidential election slated for next March.

"Social awareness has changed a lot and the times have also changed from the days when the matter of malnutrition existed. It is time to bring the matter of establishing laws banning dog meat up for public debate," Lee said at a debate co-hosted by Gyeonggi Provincial Government and 30 lawmakers in Seoul, Tuesday, adding the number of households with pets has grown and social perceptions of dogs have changed. "In terms of respect for animal life and protection of animal rights, we need to come up with new laws and national policies based on social consensus."

The matter of Korea's dog meat industry has especially been at the center of debate in recent years, with growing criticism from pet owners and animal rights activists from here and abroad. But the practice has continued despite such criticisms, with demand for dog meat also continuing.

Dogs here are classified as livestock under the Livestock Industry Act, but are excluded from the scope of livestock under the Livestock Products Sanitary Control Act, thus the matter of dog slaughter for consumption as meat has fallen into a legal blind spot, making it impossible to regulate all aspects of hygiene and quality control for dog meat.

A dozen lawmakers have submitted bills to exclude dogs from the livestock list in a bid to prevent dogs from being slaughtered for meat at farms, but none of them have been passed.

The public showed mixed responses regarding whether to ban dog meat.

According to a survey of 1,012 adults conducted last week by local pollster Realmeter, 72.1 percent of respondents said it should be left to individual choice, while 21.5 percent said it should be prohibited by law.

But in another poll of 1,000 Gyeonggi residents conducted from June 11 to 12 by the provincial government, 64 percent said they support the idea of establishing a law banning dog meat consumption, while 32 percent opposed it. Among those who supported the ban on dog meat, 68 percent cited the need to prevent animal abuse.

Lee, who has been enjoying high support in polls of presidential hopefuls, has often been spotlighted for his straightforwardness when talking on thorny social issues and for his strong policy drives.

During the debate on dog meat, Lee said an outright ban could face strong protest but he believes the reaction can be alleviated to a considerable extent by providing appropriate compensation to dog farm owners or reasonable alternatives.

In 2018, Moran Market in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, which had been notorious for sales of the controversial meat product, closed down the dog meat section after Lee, then mayor of Seongnam, made an agreement with the vendors that that the city would help them transition to other industries.


Jung Da-min damin.jung@koreatimes.co.kr


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