For the first time in South Korea, CARE has obtained a court decision stating that slaughtering dogs for food is illegal.

On October 10th 2017, CARE accused a Bucheon dog farmer of slaughtering dogs using electrocution, in violation of the Animal Protection Act, Article 8, Paragraph 1, Item 4, which states that killing an animal without any justifiable grounds is illegal.

On March 8th, the Incheon prosecutor’s office fined the farmer under Article 8, Paragraph 1, Item 1 of the Animal Protection Act. Then, on April 16th, the Incheon District Court, Bucheon fined the farmer for killing a dog by electric shock under Article 8, Paragraph 1, Item 4 of the Animal Protection Act.

The dog meat industry had avoided these regulations by killing dogs in hidden illegal slaughterhouses and preventing the act being seen by other dogs by putting a divider between the slaughtering area and where the live dogs were kept. In addition, those accused of dog electrocution had been acquitted because of insufficient evidence.

Furthermore, some prosecutors have admitted that while the slaughtering of dogs for food for profit is in violation of the Act, the trade is common in South Korea and many people still support dog meat consumption. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) had also stated they “won’t revise the legislation on dog meat consumption.”

Previously, dog slaughter was punishable only under Article 8, Paragraph 1, Items 1 and 2 of the Animal Protection Act, which states that killing an animal by hanging or other cruel methods, in an open place or in front of animals of the same species is illegal. However, this was not enough to prevent dog slaughter altogether.

The above interpretation of the Act and the weak reasoning of prosecutors have presented barriers to ending dog meat consumption and prosecuting those who slaughter dogs illegally.

CARE, however, interprets the Act from a different direction. Far from being justifiable grounds, i.e. necessary veterinary treatment or because of harm or damage to people or property as per Article 8, Paragraph 1, Item 4, the slaughtering of dogs for food actually profits those who do it—the exact opposite of harm. Not only does this go against the letter of the law, but also against the spirit of the law.

The social climate is changing, however, and animal welfare related issues are increasingly becoming part of public and political discourse. Local and national politicians are now being more vocal about their opposition to the dog meat industry and dog meat consumption. All of the current candidates running in the election for Mayor of Seoul agree with ending dog meat consumption, and the candidate running for the Governor of Jeju has promised to shut down dog meat farms on Jeju Island. Like Germany, it may not be long before South Korea has animal welfare clauses in its constitution.

CARE welcomes this historic legal precedent, and will push for more prosecutions under this new interpretation of the Act, and ultimately for the end of the dog meat trade in South Korea.

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