South Korea May Legalize Sale of Dog Meat

As this site reported back in November (see FIFA Takes on Dog Meat), animal rights activists are using South Korea’s hosting of the 2002 World Cup as an opportunity to campaign against dog meat. FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, urged South Korea to crack down on cruelty to dogs killed for meat. So far, though, the campaign seems to be backfiring.

Media outlets in South Korea have taken offense at what they see as a form of cultural imperialism, which has spurred 20 legislators to introduce a bill that would make the sale of dog meat legal.

Dog meat is apparently eaten mostly by men who believe it increases their virility. Dogs were often cruelly hun and beaten with bats to soften their flesh before they were killed, but South Korea outlawed that practice and now requires that dogs be electrocuted — though whether or not the government vigorously enforces the ban on beating dogs is debatable. It is legal to serve dog meat in South Korea, but it is not legal to sell dog meat as such.

Twenty members of South Korea’s parliament recently introduced a measure which would include dogs within the Livestock Processing Act. This would set out requirements for humanely slaughtering dogs, but would also have the effect of explicitly allowing the sale of dog meat within South Korea.

As for whether or not the concern about dog meat was cultural imperialism, Robert J. Fouser, a professor at Kagoshima University in Japan, wrote an op-ed piece for The Korea Herald. Fouser wrote,

To be sure, those who defend the custom of eating dog meat have logic on their side. Food culture varies widely around the globe, leaving no universal standard from which to determine what is acceptable for human beings to eat. Amid this wealth of culinary diversity in the world, to single out the custom of eating dog meat as barbaric is ridiculous.

Fouser also urged the South Korean media not to depict the controversy over dog meat as a clash of Asian vs. Western cultures. As Fouser wrote,

The problem with reporting on the dog meat controversy is that complaints about dog meat rarely make the headlines in the West because there is so much other news to report. Most people in West know little about Korea and care little about what Koreans eat. The animal rights activists are one of hundreds of special interest groups that focus on a single issue. They have a small group of loyal supporters who pay dues and provide foot soldiers for demonstrations and lobbying activities. Though the protests of animal rights make for splashy news photos, their activities move only tiny numbers of votes in Western countries.

Sounds like he’s got the animal rights movement pretty well pegged.


Let dog meat be. Robert J. Fouser, The Korea Herald, December 26, 2001.

Call to legalise dog meat. The BBC, December 28, 2001.

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