Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, a leading presidential hopeful of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), has stirred controversy with his remarks on dog meat consumption, which reflected claims shared among supporters of the dog meat trade.
Yoon, who has been known as an animal lover raising four dogs and three cats, spoke about the dog meat trade and animal rights issues during a televised debate among presidential contenders of the PPP, Sunday.
|Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, a leading presidential hopeful of the main opposition People Power Party, speaks during a TV debate at KBS on Yeouido, Seoul, Sunday. Yonhap|
Yoo further asked, "Considering that there are about 15 million pet owners in the country, this is a very sensitive topic. Would it be appropriate to leave it as a matter of personal choice when the issue (of dog meat consumption) is closely linked to animal abuse?"
Then Yoon replied: "Dog meat consumption is not a matter of animal abuse because dogs for meat are raised in a different environment from pet dogs."
He then failed to give a clear answer to Yoo's question on whether dogs raised for meat should be regarded as different from companion dogs.
Yoon's remarks differentiating the dogs based on whether they are for consumption or companionship led to a controversy, as this argument is used frequently by dog meat traders and supporters.
Though Korea has laws prohibiting the cruel slaughter of dogs, the consumption of dog meat is not banned by law.
Dog meat distributors and consumers have been calling for legislation dividing canines bound for consumption from those kept as pets in order to create legal boundaries for the controversial practice.
On the other hand, animal rights activists and anti-dog meat protesters have opposed classifying canines for certain purposes, as they believe such an approach will worsen animal cruelty at dog farms.
Food columnist Hwang Kyo-ik criticized Yoon for differentiating the dogs at dog farms from those raised as pets, saying this was like "discriminating people based on race."
"There aren't certain breeds of dogs categorized as food. Even breeds commonly raised as pets are easily found at slaughter farms," he wrote on Facebook, Monday. He criticized Yoon's perception of dog meat consumption as being "uncivilized," adding that all dogs should be treated equally.
Live In Freedom & Equality (LIFE), an animal rights group, issued a statement, Monday, saying there was no difference between pet dogs and animals raised for dog meat, and that dog meat consumption and abuse of animals were closely related because animals raised for meat face more abuse.
"It is more miserable that such a person, who lacks basic knowledge and recognition (on animal rights issues), loves dogs and cats," the group said.