The South Korean Parliament voted on Tuesday (January 9) to ban the consumption and trade of dog meat, a traditional practice that activists have long called a shame for the country abroad.

Dog meat has long been a part of South Korean cuisine. Up to a million dogs are said to be killed there per year for food. But consumption has declined sharply in recent years, with more and more Koreans adopting pets.

Among urban youth, eating dog meat is now a taboo, and animal rights activists have increased pressure on the government to legislate on the matter.

Official support for such a ban has grown under President Yoon Suk Yeol, an avowed animal lover who has adopted several stray dogs and cats with the first lady, Kim Keon-hee, herself virulent. criticism of the consumption of dog meat.

A three-year grace period

Breeding, selling and slaughtering dogs for meat will be punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of 30 million won (20,800 euros). The legislation will come into force after a three-year grace period.

In a survey released Monday by the Seoul-based think tank Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education, nine out of 10 people in South Korea said they did not think they would eat dog meat in the future.

Previous attempts at a ban had encountered fierce opposition from breeders of dogs intended for consumption. The law aims to offer compensation so that companies can withdraw from this trade. According to official figures, around 1,100 dog farms breed hundreds of thousands of dogs each year that are served in restaurants across the country.

In Korea, dog meat is usually eaten as a summer delicacy, with the fatty red meat, invariably boiled to make it more tender, believed to increase energy to help withstand the heat.

South Korea’s existing animal protection law was primarily aimed at preventing the cruel killing of dogs and cats, but does not prohibit their consumption. Nonetheless, authorities have invoked the law and other hygiene regulations to crack down on dog farms and restaurants in the run-up to international events such as the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.