Dog meat consumption in South Korea
|Dog meat consumption in South Korea|
Dog meat on sale in a South Korean market
|North Korean name|
The consumption of dog meat in South Korea, where it is known as "Gaegogi" (Korean: 개고기, literally "dog meat"), has a long history originating during the Three Kingdoms of Korea period of the first century AD. However, in recent years, it has become controversial both in South Korea and around the world, due to animal rights and sanitary concerns.
According to some sources, consumption of dog meat is becoming less common in modern-day South Korea, especially among younger people, and the practice is declining. Estimates of the number of animals consumed vary widely. According to the Korean Animal Rights Advocates (KARA), approximately 780,000 to 1 million dogs are consumed per year in South Korea. The declining number is based on estimates of sales from Moran Market, which dominates dog meat sales at 30–40% of the market in the entire nation. Sales at Moran Market have been declining in the past few years and were down to about 20,000 dogs per year in 2017. South Korea’s Statistical Information Service 2015 agriculture census reported a total of 24,671 facilities holding 521,201 dogs, though this figure includes both animals raised for the pet industry and those raised for meat consumption. In 2018, the Taepyeong-dong complex, which served as a slaughterhouse for hundreds of thousands of dogs on a yearly basis, was closed by the South Korean government. This move came five years after a vote by the city council of Seongnam, the city where the slaughterhouse was located.
In June 2018, a South Korean municipal court ruled that killing dogs for their meat was illegal, though this does not make it illegal to consume dog meat.
As a general practice, dog meat has never been a mainstream part of the Korean diet throughout the nation's history. The consumption of dog meat can be traced back to antiquity in isolated cases, and dog bones were excavated in a neolithic settlement in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. A wall painting in the Goguryeo tombs complex in South Hwanghae Province, a UNESCO World Heritage site dating from the 4th century AD, depicts a slaughtered dog in a storehouse (Ahn, 2000).
Starting in the Silla Dynasty (57 BC – 935 AD) and then during the Goryeo Dynasty (AD 918–1392), Buddhism was the state religion and eating beef was considered immoral and was at first discouraged and then banned (cows were regarded as human work companions). In general, animal life was regarded as sacred and eating meat was minimized; however, eating seafood remained common. During the latter part of the Goryeo Dynasty, the practice of eating dog meat was introduced by the nomadic Khitans, who as war refugees spilled into Goryeo during the Mongol invasions. The invading Mongols lifted the beef ban and legalized the consumption of meat during their rule. During the Joseon Dynasty (AD 1392–1910), the minority Khitans eventually assimilated into the social structure as the "Baekjeong," the first butcher class, occupying the lowest class of society. The Joseon government assigned the Baekjeong the task of addressing the feral dog problem, and thus dog meat became a food item for the poor (and lower classes). During the Joseon Dynasty, certain government officials argued that dogs were human companions and wanted to ban the consumption of dog meat.
In approximately 1816, Jeong Hak-yu, the second son of Jeong Yak-yong, a prominent politician and scholar of Joseon dynasty at the time, wrote a poem called Nongga Wollyeongga (농가월령가). This poem, which is an important source of Korean folk history, describes what ordinary Korean farming families did during each month of a year. In the description of the month of August, the poem tells of a married woman visiting her birth parents with boiled dog meat, rice cakes, and rice wine, thus showing the popularity of dog meat at the time (Ahn, 2000; Seo, 2002). Dongguk Sesigi (동국세시기), a book written by Korean scholar Hong Seok-mo in 1849, contains a recipe for Bosintang including a boiled dog, green onions, and red chili pepper powder.
There is a traditional anniversary in South Korea called Sambok (三伏), during which Koreans in the modern day eat Baeksuk, a chicken soup with rice and herbs. However, some South Koreans choose to consume Bosintang instead, a soup containing dog meat.
Dog meat is often consumed during the summer months and is either roasted or prepared in soups or stews. The most popular of these soups is Gaejang-guk, a spicy stew meant to balance the body's heat during the summer months. This is thought to ensure good health by balancing one's "ki", or the vital energy of the body. A 19th-century version of Gaejang-guk (개장국) explains the preparation of the dish by boiling dog meat with green onions and chili powder. Variations of the dish contain chicken and bamboo shoots.
On December 13, 2016, the termination of dog slaughter and the closure of slaughtering facilities at Moran Market was announced by the local government and vendors' association. Moran Market, located in Seongnam, was the largest dog meat market in South Korea. Annually, it sold over 20,000 dogs and was the source of 30–40% of dog meat consumption in the country. The decision was reached in an effort to mitigate the negative views of the market by remodeling it as part of a city project. All of the dog slaughtering facilities in the market were planned to be removed by May 2017 and the vendors were to be aided financially by the government in the process.
Inspired by this decision, protesters gathered at Gupo Market in Busan in February 2017, calling for the closure of the dog meat vendors there. The Gupo Market is of similar size to the Moran Market and has been around since the Joseon Dynasty. In recent decades, the number of dog meat vendors in the market has decreased to only 22 due to the efforts of the government trying to improve the image of the city for tourists. As of now, there have been no official statements by the local government involving plans to remove the dog meat vendors.
On November 21, 2018, South Korea closed the country's main dog slaughterhouse, known as Taepyeong-dong. The slaughterhouse was located in Seongnam. The Seongnam city council, which voted in 2013 to close the slaughterhouse, will turn the area into a community park.
Dogs used for meat
The primary dog breed raised for meat is a non-specific landrace commonly named as Nureongi (누렁이), or Hwanggu (황구). Nureongi are not the only type of dog currently slaughtered for their meat in South Korea. In 2015, The Korea Observer reported that many different pet breeds of dog are bred to be eaten, including, for example, labradors, retrievers, and cocker spaniels, and that the dogs slaughtered for their meat often include former pets.
According to the Korean Animal Rights Advocates (KARA), there are approximately 3,000 dog meat farms operating across the country, many of which receive dogs as overflow from puppy mills for the pet industry. With declining demand for dog meat in Korea, a more serious problem now is excess dogs stemming from the puppy mill industry.
The majority of dogs are slaughtered by electrocution, though some are hung or beaten over the head before exsanguination, even though such practices are illegal under the 2007 Animal Protection Act.
In 2015, it was reported that when retrievers are sold as meat dogs, they cost over 200,000 Korean Won (£140 British pounds or $180 US dollars).
Between 1975 and 1978, dogs had the full legal status of livestock animals in South Korea, but the legality of the dog meat trade is now highly disputed. South Korea adopted its first Animal Protection Law in May, 1991.
Currently, Article 7 of the Animal Protection Act does not explicitly prohibit the slaughter of dogs for food; however, it "prohibits killing animals in a brutal way". In addition, it "forbids killing the dogs in open areas such as on the street or in front of other animals of the same species".
The controversy over dog meat has led to lobbying for/against regulation as well as differing interpretations of existing laws.
Dog meat is subject to the Food Sanitation Act/Food Hygiene Act of 1962, which simply defines food" as "all foodstuff, except taken as medicine". However, unlike beef, pork, or poultry, dog meat is excluded from the list of livestock under the Livestock Processing Act of 1962,[note 1] which is "the principal statute governing hygienic slaughtering of livestock and processing of meat." Hence, dog meat farming is under-regulated compared to that of other stock animals.
As a result, there are no regulations requiring the humane slaughter of dogs for meat. The controversy over dog meat consumption often centers on the slaughtering methods employed, which include electrocution, strangulation by hanging, and physically beating the dog to death. Some dogs are still alive when they are blow-torched or thrown into boiling water to remove their fur. Some people believe that dog meat should be expressly legalized so that only authorized preparers can deal with the meat in more humane and sanitary ways, while others think that the practice should be banned by law.
In 2008, the Seoul Metropolitan Government proposed a recommendation to the national government to add dogs to the list of livestock whose slaughter is regulated by law. However, activist groups attacked the proposal as legitimizing or legalizing the trade in dog meat. The city dropped the proposal, but an official from the national government was quoted as saying “It’s the sole idea of the city. We have not been consulted at all .... I don’t think we are planning to even consider this option.”
In June 2018, the municipal court of the city of Bucheon ruled that killing dogs for their meat was illegal. The landmark decision came after much criticism from animal advocates in the country. The court case was brought forward by animal rights group Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (Care) against a dog farm, which they said was killing animals without a real reason.
Types of dishes
- Bosintang (보신탕; 補身湯); Gaejangguk (개장국) Stew containing boiled dog meat and vegetables.
- Gaegogi Jeongol (개고기 전골) – An elaborate dog stew made in a large Jeongol pan.
- Gae Suyuk (개 수육; 개水肉)- Boiled dog meat
- Gaegogi Muchim (개고기 무침) – Steamed dog meat, Korean leeks (부추), and vegetables mixed with spices
- Gaesoju (개소주; 개燒酒) – Mixed drink containing dog meat and other Chinese medicine ingredients such as ginger, chestnut, and jujube to invigorate one's health.
During the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, the South Korean government urged its citizens not to consume dog meat in order to avoid bad publicity during the games, along with a request to butcher shops not to hang dog carcasses in the windows. It also closed all restaurants serving Gaejang-guk to better improve the country's image to Western visitors. A 1998 Salon article reported that despite officially being banned by the government for a decade, nearly 20,000 restaurants at the time were still serving dog meat. South Korea's successful bid to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1996 prompted a new wave of criticism against its dog meat culture. Activists argue that as whale meat consumption declined in Japan after the 1964 Summer Olympics, South Koreans should reduce their consumption of dog meat.
The controversy surfaced again in 2001 during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The organizers of the games, under pressure from animal rights groups such as PETA, demanded that the Korean government re-address the issue. Brigitte Bardot, a prominent head of a French animal rights organization which is named after her, launched a campaign during the 2002 FIFA World Cup to have dog meat outlawed in Korea. She encouraged people to boycott the games if the government did not outlaw the sale of dog meat in restaurants in Seoul.
In October 2018, a leading Egyptian MP (Margaret Azer) suggested that Egypt export stray dogs for meat consumption to countries like South Korea as a solution to the problem of overpopulation of stray dogs in the country.
Azer’s statements have sparked a wave of criticism among animal rights advocates and rescuers in Egypt. 
In Korea, some people eat Bosintang (literally "invigorating soup"), believing it to have medicinal properties, particularly as relates to virility. In South Korea, dog meat is also believed to encourage one's energy or virility, and usually consumed during the intense Korean summer, whereas in China dog meat is consumed in the winter months under the belief that it increases warmth.
In recent years, some South Koreans have changed their attitudes towards eating dog meat as a matter of "personal choice" to considering it an "unnecessary cruelty." Animal rights activists in South Korea protest against the custom of eating dog meat. Since 1988, international animal welfare activists – most notably, French actress Brigitte Bardot – have campaigned against dog meat consumption in South Korea. However, Korean nationalists on the internet have argued that a double standard exists, accusing non-Korean animal welfare activists of forcing "Westernization" on South Korea. A 2007 survey by the South Korean agriculture ministry showed that 59% of South Koreans aged under 30 would not eat dog. Some 62% of the same age group said they regard dogs as pets, not food. Many young Koreans think those who eat dog are anachronists.
World Protection For Dogs and Cats in the Meat Trade opposes the consumption and trade of dog meat in South Korea, viewing it as an unregulated industry, with conditions it views as unsanitary and cruel. Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) estimates that approximately 1 million dogs are consumed per year in South Korea. Several organizations, such as In Defense of Animals, KARA, Guardians of Rescue, and koreandogs.org, are petitioning the South Korean government to ban dog meat consumption. Since 2002, as the outcry has grown, the number of dogs raised as livestock and the number of dog farms have declined rapidly.
Korean Americans have used lawsuits against public figures who mention this stereotype regarding South Korean cuisine. During the 2002 Winter Olympics, TV host Jay Leno joked that the South Korean skater Kim Dong-Sung would eat his dog. The MCIC Group filed a class-action lawsuit against Leno on behalf of 50,000 Korean Americans, demanding an apology and monetary damages.
The animal welfare advocacy group Animal Welfare Institute has called for letters of protest about the dog meat trade to be sent to the South Korean president and ambassador to the United States prior to South Korea hosting the 2018 winter Olympics. The charity World Dog Alliance raised a successful online petition in 2012 calling for the UK Government to intervene and oppose the cruelty. In 2015, the issue was finally debated in the House of Commons Chamber. A second debate on South Korea’s dog meat trade in the UK Parliament was held on September 12, 2016, by the Petitions Committee, following an online petition which was started on petition.parliament.uk. Change.org has over 450,000 signatures on a petition to boycott the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Numerous activist groups have documented cases in South Korea and China of dogs being beaten, burned, electrocuted, and boiled alive. Some Koreans and Chinese believe in a myth that the more adrenaline a dog produces due to distress just prior to being killed, the more tender the dog meat will be for consumption.
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