Little has changed over the years regarding the dog meat industry in Korea. The selling and processing of dog meat is still technically illegal. The situation could be summed up with this paradox: it is illegal to produce and consume dog meat but it is not against the law.
Debate continues on its legalization but an impasse remains at the moment between the Korean government and animal welfare groups, meaning that everything continues on now as it has done in the past.
THAT MEANS IN PRACTICE:
A Dog's Life: dogs live in tiny cages above the ground all their lives. They are separated from their mothers at an early age and some are slaughtered as pups; they do not feel what walking on the ground is like; they cannot mingle with other dogs other than those in cages beside them; they suffer summer heat and freezing winters outdoors; they are not given water; they have to eat human food waste such as kimchi; they get no exercise; they have been known to have their eardrums burst to prevent them from barking--every natural instinct they have is thwarted by the inhumane and tortuous conditions they must live under.
A Dog's Death: dogs are electrocuted, hanged, beaten or burned to death. There is a perverted belief that the meat tastes better if dogs have high adrenaline levels in their meat before they die. Therefore, some dogs are made to experience extreme fear and suffering in the lead up to their deaths. Some dogs are hanged and then beaten while they are hanging and still alive. Others are hanged and then a blow torch is used on them while they are still alive to remove their hair. Others still are simply beaten and tortured to death. Generally, at the markets, dogs are electrocuted and then their necks are broken.
A Dog's Products: dogs are turned into dog meat, dog meat soup, dog liquor, and dog "health" elixirs. Dubious health claims are made about dog products, included the typical claim that it assists male stamina and sexual prowess. Such pathetic claims are made throughout Asia with regard to all manner of animal products to attract equally pathetic male customers. In Korea, over the hottest days of the year, people follow a custom of eating dog meat because it allegedly increases energy. Exercising for health and energy is apparently too much hard work for dog meat eaters.
Ironically, dog meat has been linked to salmonella and staph infections, and a number of people die every year from eating dog meat. The health problems associated with dog meat have led authorities to try and do something about it, but of course, typically, nothing is done to prevent the deprivation, cruelty and suffering the dogs have to endure.
I. WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN RECENT YEARS
In January 2005, local animal protection groups found out that the OGC (Office for Government Policy Coordination under the Prime Minister) had been studying a new policy on how the government will regulate dog meat. This had been going on for some time behind closed doors.
As soon as the news got out, animal rights groups began a campaign to prevent the government from pursuing this policy. At the end of January, theMinistry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAF) told all groups to stop sending petitions because the OGC was not going to pursue its DOG MEAT SANITATION MANAGEMENT POLICY any further.
March 9, 2005, the Prime Minister announced a new DOG MEAT SANITATION MANAGEMENT POLICY. This was intended to result in the legalization of dog meat in Korea. It is the complete reverse of what KARA and other local animal protection groups were told.
II. LEGAL BACKGROUND AND THE IDIOCY OF DOG MEAT LAWS
1. LEGITIMACY OF DOG MEAT IN KOREA
Dogs are defined as “Livestock” according to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAF). The purpose of keeping them as livestock--for breeding, killing, or whatever--is irrelevant to the law.
However, dogs are not defined as “Livestock” under the Livestock Processing Law. That is, they are not listed as livestock that can be officially processed as food. Therefore, it can be inferred it is illegal to process dogs for food, but there is no law expressly forbidding it.
It might be argued that since Korean laws are usually strict in listing what is allowed or prohibited, and since dogs are not listed as animals that can be processed as food, then it is illegal to produce dog meat.
The current Animal Protection Law does not ban the slaughter of dogs for meat, nor does it protect dogs on dog farms from abuse. It only applies to dogs kept in a house.
THAT MEANS IN PRACTICE:
It is technically ILLEGAL to process dogs like livestock and use dog meat as any kind of food product.
However, it is NOT ILLEGAL to breed, or raise, or slaughter dogs for dog meat.
(Don't worry if you are confused. So is everyone else, and the government conveniently keeps it that way.)
2. SANITATION LAW ADDS TO CONFUSION
The Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) proposed that animals not listed as livestock under the Processing Law come under a Sanitation Law. So the people keeping dogs as livestock must comply with sanitation requirements under the Sanitation Law.
Dogs are defined as “livestock” in the Sewage Disposal & Live Stock Waste Water Treatment Law under MOE (Ministry of Environment).
Food is defined as “anything edible, except medicine” under the Sanitation Law and the KFDA interprets dog meat as “food” under the Sanitation law.
In 1984, the City of Seoul adopted a city code banning dog meat as “Disgusting Food" in the Seoul Metropolitan Area, but this seems to have been announced more than entered into law because it is not enforced. Nonetheless, using dog meat as a food ingredient is technically illegal.
(This provision was possibly dropped during a 1987 policy revision.)
THAT MEANS IN PRACTICE:
Dog meat restaurants were not fined or forced to close their businesses for violating Seoul City Codes, or for violating the Food Sanitation Law.
KFDA interprets dog meat as food. For the dog meat that is displayed for sales or trade purposes, local council and district offices are ordered to conduct sanitation inspection
Virtually all dog farms and dog slaughterhouses do not have proper sewage disposal systems and pollute the soil and water. Although dogs are defined as 'livestock' under the Sewage Disposal & Live Stock Water Treatment Law, it is not enforced at all.
3. THE ANIMAL PROTECTION LAW REVISION, 2004.
This was the first time the Korean Government actually made substantive revisions to the contents of the Animal Protection Law since it was legislated in 1991.
There have been 4 revisions in the past, but they were all concerning new names or titles of government organizations or related laws.And the government’s attempt to revise the law in 2002 was put on hold because the government and local animal protection groups could not reach any agreement.
Over the years, the Korean government has kept changing what agency is in charge of the Animal Protection Law revision. At this time, the Domestic Animal Sanitation Department under Live Stock Bureau of the MAF (Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry) is in charge of the Animal Protection Law revision.
The Korean government claimed that they were revising the Animal Protection Law to improve animal welfare so that Korea will conform to international standards of animal welfare. However, the MAF refused to even discuss the banning of dog meat.
Part of the reason for revising the Animal Protection Law was the rapid increase in pet ownership in Korea, which raised the need to develop some sort of solution to manage pet related problems. Especially, it is sad to say, the control and the management of stray and abandoned dogs.
III. THE KOREAN GOVERNMENT’S POSITION
The Koren government says it is not legalizing dog meat because dogs are not being classified as “Live Stock” according to the Live Stock Processing Law.
It says it is enhancing the standard of animal welfare by increasing the penalties for animal cruelty.
It says it is revising the Animal Protection Law to punish cruelties and the slaughter of dogs in public places, such as streets and open markets.
It says it is regulating the dog meat trade and related businesses for public health and safety and environment reasons.
It says this is what the majority of Koreans want.
HOWEVER, THE GOVERNMENT'S STATEMENTS ARE NOT TRUE:
The government has in the past tried to get around the live stock classification barrier by regulating dog meat as “Food” under the current Food Sanitation Law. That way it will not matter whether dogs are defined as “Live Stock” or not in the Live Stock Processing Law. It will invariably try again.
A provision that punishes the cruel slaughter of dogs in public spaces CANNOT prohibit the same cruel acts happening in private establishments such as dog meat restaurants.
If the Korean government is truly concerned about public health, it should ban dog meat without any further delay. That will solve the problem of food poisoning from dog meat and the waste and sewage problems caused by dog farms and dog slaughterhouses.
The government tries to keep the public uninformed and ignorant as to what is going on. Its study for a DOG MEAT SANITATION MANAGEMENT POLICY was conducted but kept from the general public. The OGC (Office for Government Policy Coordination under the Prime Minister) refused to release it.
The general public is often deceived and misled by the Korean Government and certain sections of the Korean News Media.
IV. KOREAN MEDIA COVERAGE
The Korean news media does an amazing job of white-washing the realities of the dog meat industry. It tends to praise efforts by the government to legalize dog meat. Deep issues are not explored and everything is reported on a superficial level, as if to mollify the public and deflect attention. Typical statements take the following form:
Legalization is better because dogs will be killed with less pain
Legalization is better so that your pet dogs can be protected.
Legalization is better so that dog meat will be safe to eat.
HOWEVER, THE MEDIA LEAVES OUT THESE REALITIES:
Punishment for the cruel slaughter of dogs in public does not stop cruel acts happening behind closed doors.
It is unethical and wrong to separate dogs for meat and dogs for pets in the first place. To say there is a dog especially bred for eating, does not mean that it is different from other dogs in nature. It has the same intelligence and feelings and it will suffer as much as any other dog. The dog-for-meat notion is a smoke screen to keep people ignorant. It gives people an excuse not to think about the real issues.
It is practically impossible to enforce a law ensures everyone adheres to the dogs for meat and dogs for pets division. Any pet can end up as dog meat and many do. Pet dogs are being bought or abducted and slaughtered for dog meat and dog liquor all the time.
V. IN CONCLUSION
For various reasons the Korea government, past and present, has never tried to clarify the legitimacy of dog meat or prevent illegalities.
Unfortunately, the Korean government has a tendency to pursue policies aimed at legalizing dog meat rather than fixing all the problems associated with it.
Banning dog meat is the best way to protect people from food poisoning and other diseases that people get from eating dog meat. It is also the only way to protect people’s pet dogs from ending up as dog meat.
Finally, banning dog meat is the best way to stop the terrible cruelties perpetrated against dogs and the horrendous suffering they must endure from birth to death.
Short of banning dog meat, the only way to shut down the industry is for everyone to stop buying dog industry products.