Legislative efforts to end dog meat consumption in South Korea are picking up speed amid rare political unity following the presidential office's outspoken support for ending the centuries-old practice.
Calls to end the practice are not new in South Korea, where butchering or eating dog meat is neither explicitly prohibited nor legalized. But the anti-dog meat campaign received fresh attention in late August as first lady Kim Keon Hee made a surprise visit to a civic group's press conference calling for an end to such a practice.
The ruling People Power Party has said it will push for an anti-dog meat bill named after the first lady. In a rare show of unity, the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) has also vowed to resolve the issue by the end of 2024.
There are four pending bills calling for a ban on dog meat consumption. Dozens of lawmakers from the two major rival parties signed two resolutions pledging to eradicate the practice.
The proposed bills aim to provide the legal grounds for banning acts of breeding, butchering or distributing dog meat or food products made with dogs, while forcing the agriculture ministry to support the job transition of people involved in the industry.
The prospect of their passage, however, remains unclear due to strong opposition from dog meat farmers, restaurant owners and many others who have built their entire livelihood around the industry.
Animal advocates condemn the brutality of consuming man's best friend, while others claim the tradition is no different from eating beef or pork.
Proponents of dog meat consumption claim legal bans will strip away what they call the "people's sovereignty over food," and threaten dog farmers' right to live.
"It is an atrocious act to deprive people of the right to eat. Dog meat is the fifth most consumed meat in South Korea. They have no right to touch people's livelihoods or the basic right to people's sovereignty over food." said Ju Yeong-dong, the former secretary general of one of the largest associations of people involved in the dog meat industry.
About 3,500 farms had bred dogs for food purposes in South Korea as of last year. They supply dog meat to around 3,000 restaurants across the country, Ju said.
South Korea has often come under attack from some foreign critics in recent decades for eating dogs.
Former South Korean President Roh Tae-woo was shocked on a visit to London just before the 1988 Seoul Olympics when he was greeted by angry protestors criticizing the consumption of dog meat.
Dog meat stew, called "boshintang" in Korean, is no longer popular among younger generations, but some older South Koreans still consider it a delicacy, particularly during the summer months.
Last year, a Gallup poll showed that 64 percent of people aged 18 and older said they "view negatively" the eating of dog meat, a stark contrast compared with 2015, when 44 percent expressed a negative view of the practice.
Source: Yonhap News Agency