The killing and butchering of dogs has been banned in South Korea's most infamous dog-meat market.
According to The Korea Herald, sellers of dog meat in Seongnam's Moran Market will have their slaughtering sites seized by authorities, part of a dismantling program that could begin within a week, with all cages and slaughterhouses set to be permanently removed by the end of May.
"Starting off with the removal of slaughtering facilities and cages in the market, we will ultimately stop the dog meat trade in Moran Market," Seongnam city official Kang Won-gu told the Herald.
Borrowing from Mahatma Gandhi, Seongnam's mayor, Lee Jae-myung, said: "Seongnam City will take the initiative to transform South Korea's image since 'the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.'"
Moran Market is South Korea's top dog meat trade center, where some 80,000 dogs are either sold or killed each year, supplying a major portion of the country's dog meat. At the market, dogs are kept in cages – ultimately sold and killed before the eyes of market-goers, often by harsh methods such as electrocution.
The site has been a target of animal rights group for years, and those groups applauded the move.
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"This is a hugely consequential development because of the sheer numbers of animals involved," Humane Society of the United States President and CEO Wayne Pacelle wrote on his blog.
According to the South Korea Herald, the city of Seongnam will pick up the tab for market merchants to retool their shops for new kinds of businesses, an approach espoused by the Humane Society as well.
"The closing of the Moran dog meat market affirms the soundness of our model of shutting down the farms by giving the farmers an alternative form of employment," Pacelle wrote. "With the Winter Olympics planned for South Korea for 2018, this is a key leverage point for the global community," he added. "This proud and successful country can shed this industry and help transition farmers to other lucrative and more humane businesses."
An official with the Korean Animal Welfare Association told the Herald his organization will monitor the progress of the ban to see that it is enforced and urged local officials in Seongnam to push for the measures to be adopted as well.
According to the Humane Society International, some 2 million poorly treated dogs are farmed in about 17,000 sites in South Korea. The legal status of dog farming in South Korea is a murky issue. One law, the Livestock Industry Act, treats dogs as livestock even as another dealing with the slaughter and disposal of livestock does not define dogs as livestock. Meanwhile, a 2007 law designed to prohibit some of the crueler methods used by dog farmers goes largely unenforced. Ultimately, no law specifically prohibits the farming of dogs for consumption as food.
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