Photograph by Jung Yeon-Je, AFP/Getty
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Dogs look out from cages at a dog farm during a rescue event on the outskirts of Seoul, South Korea, in 2017. The tradition of consuming dog meat has declined as South Koreans, especially young people, increasingly embrace the idea of dogs as pets instead of livestock.

Photograph by Jung Yeon-Je, AFP/Getty

South Korea Rules Killing Dogs for Meat Illegal, But Fight Continues

The court decision is a victory for those who oppose the consumption of dog meat, but it doesn’t outright ban the practice.

A South Korean court has ruled that killing dogs in order to sell and eat them is illegal—the first decision of its kind in the country.

South Koreans kill an estimated two million dogs each year for food, consuming 100,000 metric tons of dog meat, according to the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C. The Humane Society International estimates that 30 million dogs a year are killed for food around the world. In parts of East Asia, the practice has long been common.

The court’s decision, made in April but not widely known until details were released at the end of June, ruled in favor of the animal rights activist group Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth, or CARE. The group sued a dog-farm owner in Bucheon, South Korea, last year for “killing animals without proper reason.”

The Bucheon city court convicted the owner on the basis that meat consumption was not a legal reason to kill dogs, according to Agence France-Presse. The court also said he violated building and hygiene regulations that authorities put in place to crack down on dog-meat farms. The owner was fined three million won (about $2,700 US) and waived his right to an appeal.

Dog Meat Sales Continue at Chinese Festival Despite Expected Ban (GRAPHIC VIDEO) Graphic video from animal rights activists show sales of dog meat at a Chinese festival despite an announced ban.

“It is very significant in that it is the first court decision that killing dogs for dog meat is illegal itself,” Kim Kyung-eun, a lawyer for CARE, told the Guardian.

However, owners of dog farms and slaughterhouses are protesting the ruling. The Daily Mail reports that the owners are calling for the government to legalize dog meat consumption instead of banning it and to provide licenses for slaughterhouses. (See "Dog Meat Still on Sale at Controversial Festival.")

“Cows, pigs, chickens, and ducks are all raised to be consumed,” said Cho Hwan-ro, a representative from an association of dog farms, on YTN television. “Why not dogs?”

Younger generations of South Koreans mostly steer clear of dog-meat consumption, adopting the view that dogs are pets, not food. However, fewer than half of South Koreans believe the centuries-old cultural practice should be banned altogether.

Pups Rescued From Dog Meat Farm Need Adoption Jan. 6, 2015 -  Humane Society International brokered a deal with a farmer near Seoul,  South Korea, in which he will stop raising  dogs for meat and switch to growing crops instead.  On Monday, the first 11 of the 23 saved dogs were brought to the  Animal Welfare League of Alexandria near Washington, D.C., where they will be monitored and eventually made available for adoption.

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Activist groups have shared images and videos of the cruel treatment of dogs that are killed for meat in the country, and CARE told the Guardianthat the group plans to keep sending more cases against dog farms and slaughterhouses through South Korea’s court system.

A lawmaker from South Korea’s ruling Democratic party also introduced a bill in Parliament at the end of June that would effectively ban the country’s approximately 17,000 dog farms from killing dogs for meat.