(TMU) — A major dog meat market in South Korea is finally being closed down amid increased outcry from Korean citizens over animal cruelty concerns, in a sign of changing times in a country that has indulged in the traditional food for millennia.
The Gupo Livestock Market in Busan, once a bustling center of the dog meat trade where consumers could purchase chilled dog meat and live dogs killed to order, will shut down next month following an agreement between local authorities and vendors.
The market, one of the country’s largest, will see its 19 dog meat merchants shutter their businesses as the market makes way for a new public park being built in line with an urban planning project.
In return for closing their businesses by July 11, the local government will give each merchant about 3.1 million won ($2,700) every month until December of next year to ensure that they can transition to a fresh start, according to the Korea Times.
Last year, the South Korean city of Seongnam demolished the Taepyeong dog slaughterhouse and closed most of the related dog meat vendors in the municipality. The slaughterhouse was the largest such butchery in the country.
Four animal rights groups, including the Korea Animal Rights Advocates, greeted the news in a joint statement. The activists said:
“We wholeheartedly welcome and support the district office’s effort to end the trade of dog meat in Korea. It is a big step forward, but Korea still has many such markets, including Chilseong Market in Daegu … We will continue to work with everyone to end the practice of eating dog meat.”
Around 2 million dogs are raised for slaughter on dog meat farms across South Korea, with cruel and brutal means of butchery being meted out to the canines, with death by electrocution being the favored means of slaughtering the dogs. The method can take anywhere from five to twenty minutes, according to Humane Society International.
Hanging, in full view of the other dogs, is also a common method.
While the treatment of dogs in such a manner violates the Animal Protection Act, the industry still exists in a sort of legal limbo. As a result, across Asia, approximately 30 million dogs are killed and eaten each year, with the majority of those killed being stolen pets or street dogs.
However, the traditional consumption of dog meat—or gaegogi—has been on the wane among younger generations sensitive to animal cruelty concerns, with a growing number of South Koreans embracing the canines as pets rather than cuisine. Regardless, the consumption of dog meat is still popular during the summertime.
Nara Kim, a dog meat campaigner for Humane Society International (HSI), celebrated the closure of the Gupo Market. In a statement, Kim said:
“The closure plan is the result of months of hard work between the local authorities and the market vendors, and both sides are to be commended for working towards this goal that will not only bring to an end to Gupo’s dog meat era, but will also see the area regenerated with new amenities and businesses for the benefit of the local, modern economy.
HSI has been working with dog meat farmers in South Korea for nearly four years helping them close their flagging businesses as more people in the county turn away from dog meat, so the closure of Gupo’s grimly iconic dog market, which follows the demolition last year of the country’s largest dog slaughterhouse complex, is a sign of more compassionate times.”
Her group hopes that the government’s work to shutter the market signals a new era in South Korea where the “increasingly unpopular” dog meat operations will be phased out and ultimately put to a complete halt.