Dog meat could finally disappear from restaurant menus in South Korea after the government appointed a taskforce to look at banning eating the animals.
The move comes after Moon Jae-in, the president and a known animal-lover, suggested that the time had come to ban the sale and consumption of dog meat.
Watch: South Korea hints at banning dog meat
Eating dog has been part of Korean culture for centuries, although its popularity has plummeted in recent years. There were fewer than 100 dog meat restaurants in Seoul in 2019, and the last major dog meat market closed earlier this year.
Lee Won Bok, head of the Korea Association for Animal Protection, said: "South Korea is the only developed country where people eat dogs, an act that is undermining our international image.
"Even if the K-pop band BTS and the (Korean drama) Squid Game are ranked No. 1 in the world, foreigners are still associating South Korea with dog meat and the Korean War."
Dogs are consumed as food in North Korea, China and Vietnam as well as in South Korea.
Younger people in general find dog meat a less appetising dining option and, meanwhile, pets are growing in popularity.
A poll conducted last year by Humane Society International/Korea showed that 84 percent of Koreans do not or will not eat dog and 60 percent saying they support a legal ban on the trade.
But the plans will face opposition from older generations of Koreans who insist the meat is a traditional part of the nation’s cuisine that supposedly provides stamina and increases male virility.
The government said that "public awareness of their basic rights and animal rights issues are tangled in a complicated manner" when it comes to dog meat consumption.
Kim boo-Kyum, the prime minister, said: “The controversy over dog meat consumption is not new and has persisted for over 30 years, since the 1988 Seoul Olympics.”
“With the sharp increase in the number of households with pets and growing public interest in animal rights and animal welfare, we are witnessing increasing calls against viewing meat consumption as part of our old food culture”,"Yonhap News quoted Mr Kim as saying.
The dog meat industry is also expected to resist any legal ban. Currently, dog meat is neither legal nor explicitly banned in South Korea.
Animal rights campaigners and pet-owners, however, welcomed the news yesterday.
“As someone who has witnessed the cruelty first-hand, for me it’s the suffering of the dogs that motivates me to achieve a ban”, said Nara Kim, who leads the organisation’s End Dog Meat campaign.
“These dogs are caged in horrific conditions, with minimal food, with absolutely nothing to protect them from the extreme cold winters and overwhelmingly hot summers”, she told The Telegraph. “Often they are caged together in a small space with many dogs, which can cause fighting and cause injuries or death.
“The industry uses an electrocution device to slaughter dogs and often dogs are still conscious after they electrocute them, which is an extremely cruel way of killing any animal”.
Ms Nara also said it is “insulting and shameful” for the rest of the world to see eating dogs as a Korean tradition, when in reality “it is an outdated habit mainly for old men who like to believe it has health properties”.
The industry is expected to fight back, with farmers, slaughterhouses and restaurants insisting that the public should have the right to choose what they want to eat and that eating dogs is no different to consuming other farmed animals.
In a separate incident in Central Java, Indonesia, this week (above), police worked with the Dog Meat Free Indonesia coalition and Humane Society International to rescue dogs destined for the meat market.
The dogs were found tied in sacks in a meat transport truck. The Humane Society said the busted trader brutally kills hundreds of dogs monthly.