South Korea Outlaws Dog Meat — What Can We Learn From This?

The implications of South Korea’s new law for vegan advocacy

Pathless Pilgrim

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A caged puppy, destined for the pot, awaits a buyer at a street market, as part of the dog meat trade.
A puppy, destined for the pot, awaits a buyer. Image courtesy of WeAnimalsMedia.org

South Korea has a long history of eating dog meat which goes back centuries. In 2022 it was estimated that there were around 1,100 farms, breeding some 570,000 dogs to supply around 1,600 restaurants. But that is all to change in 2027, when a new law is set to come into force banning the breeding and slaughtering of dogs for human consumption.

Animal activists around the world are jubilant at this fantastic news. But I want to look behind the headlines at the implications of this ban for vegan advocates like myself.

Those of us who campaign for recognition and respect of the rights of all animals, know that there is no fundamental or moral difference between the rights of a dog and the rights of a pig, or a cow, for example. They all feel pain the same way, they all suffer. They all want to live and fear death, just as we do.

Many people argue that we will not see any significant change in society’s exploitation and oppression of animals until and unless we successfully campaign for changes in the law, and that this is where our efforts and attention should be focused. But is this a valid argument?

Changes in public opinion

According to reports, a recent poll by South Korean think-tank ‘Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education’ revealed that more than 94% of respondents said they had not eaten dog meat for the past year and about 93% said they would not do so in the future. According to Reuters, other polls have shown backing for the ban at around 56% — still a majority.

Food anthropologist Joo Young-ha confirms, in relation to the dog meat trade, “It was well on the way to going extinct on its own. But the law is of course significant in the sense that it reflects changing attitudes in the country toward consumption of dog meat.”

Laws follow the people, not the other way round

This is a hugely significant point. Legislation can usually only be enacted with the support of the majority of the general public, or at least if there is not widespread opposition. Do you…

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Pathless Pilgrim

Veteran Vegan. Bad Buddhist. Many things to many people... a complete enigma to myself