Farmers rally over first lady’s comments on banning dog meat


Seoul (AP) — Dozens of dog farmers in South Korea rallied Tuesday to criticize the country’s first lady over her reported comments that support a possible ban on dog meat consumption.

Eating dog is a centuries-old Korean practice. But there have been growing calls for outlawing it in South Korea as animal rights campaigns have influenced public perception and eating dog meat has fallen out of favor with most younger people.

In late 2021, a government-civilian committee was launched to reach a social consensus on ending dog meat consumption, but no breakthrough has been reported yet. Farmers demand authorities present more concrete compensation steps or allow them to maintain their businesses for about 15-20 years until older people, who are the main source of demand for the meat, die.

About 50 dog farmers gathered Tuesday near the office of President Yoon Suk Yeol to protest remarks made by his wife, Kim Keon Hee, during a private luncheon with animal rights activists earlier in April.

Some local media outlets reported Kim told the activists that she would effort an end to dog meat consumption for the duration of Yoon’s term, which ends in 2027. Dog farmers argued Kim isn’t entitled to make such a policy promise because she isn’t a government official. They also accused her of undermining their rights to their livelihoods and happiness.

Yoon’s office declined to confirm the contents of Kim’s conversation with the activists because their luncheon was organized as a closed-door meeting.

Attendee Jo Hee Kyung, who heads the Korean Animal Welfare Association, said Kim’s comments reported in the media were largely taken out of context. Jo said Kim did not discuss policies but rather expressed her personal hopes for the end of dog meat consumption during an informal meeting meant to cheer up animal rights activists. Jo said Kim told them that TV programs reporting animal abuses made her heart ache. She said they felt grateful to Kim for sharing her views backing a potential ban.

Kim and Yoon are known as pet lovers. They raise six dogs and five cats. Jo said Kim had long held interests in animal rights movements even before Yoon became president in 2022.

But Ju Yeongbong, an official at an association of dog farmers, said he believes that animals rights activists were trying to cover up Kim’s comments.

During the rally, farmers pumped their fists and chanted slogans demanding Kim withdraw her reported comments and the government formulate steps to support the farmers. “Guarantee our livelihoods! Guarantee!” they shouted.

They said they later visited a police station to file complaints against Kim for allegedly hurting their rights to maintain livelihoods, seek happiness and select jobs.

Chae IlTaek, an activist at the Korean Animal Welfare Association, called dog meat consumption “an anachronistic business” that should have been shut down.

About 1 million dogs are slaughtered for food annually in South Korea, a decrease from more than 3 million annually about 10-20 years ago, according to Ju.

Dog meat is neither legally protected nor explicitly banned in South Korea. During election campaigning, Yoon said he personally opposed dog meat consumption but formulating a policy on outlawing it would require a public consensus.

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