Dogs as Livestock in South Korea

April 3, 2008

The Australian Herald Sun is reporting that the Seoul city government is trying again to classify dogs as livestock in a bid to legalize, license, and regulate the industry and raise health standards for consumers.

Estimates of somewhere between 2 and 4 million dogs are eaten in South Korea each year; in Seoul alone there are about 500 dog meat restaurants. Other estimates say that nationwide there are 6,000 restaurants serving dogs and they are enjoyed by 10% of the population. Since there is no current regulation the market is underground. Almost all of these dogs are slaughtered and processed in less than pristine, sanitary conditions, making dog meat a somewhat risky entree for diners.

If this proposal is made law and effectively enforced, it could produce a rise in consumption as restaurant goers grew more confident that the dog meat they were ordering is ‘safe,’ that is, free of pathogens and other contaminants.

There is local opposition. Lee Won-Bok, president of the Korea Association for Animal Protection said, “It’s horrible to imagine dog meat on display next to beef and ham at supermarkets. It would also be nauseating to see roasted dog meat on the menu of your restaurant.”

However, Won-Bok’s statement seems to ignore the fact that dog meat is already consumed in fairly large quantities nation wide and is currently on many restaurant menus. Keeping this industry underground invites abusive and inhumane treatment.

The ethics here seems quite clear: if you are going to serve dog meat, consumers should be protected by making sure that meat is processed under sanitary conditions.

I wonder what the status of bestiality laws are in South Korea? Is it illegal to have sex with dogs but OK to roast and eat them?

Research science tells us that dogs and pigs rank very close to each other on scales of intelligence and gentleness. If you arrived from another planet and observed conditions in a factory farm that raises and slaughters pigs and then saw how some people are practicing Yoga with their companion dogs, you would be quite appropriately confused.

The distinction drawn here is simply cultural and not based on biology.

As a consumer of pork and a platonic, non-sexual lover of dogs, I recognize the weakness of any moral outrage I might muster over this dichotomy. No one likes to accept the fact that their moral position is arbitrary and based on locale and not any set of hard facts.

But to pretend otherwise is a lie.


Got something to say?

You must be logged in to post a comment.