A rescue dog awaits adoption at an event celebrating the closing of all of Seoul's dog slaughterhouses on Saturday in the city's Namsan Park. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI
SEOUL, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Mayor Park Won-soon officially declared the closing of all dog slaughterhouses in Seoul on Saturday, as dozens of pet lovers and animal protection groups celebrated at an event in the city's Namsan Park.
"Through persuasion for many years, we stopped all slaughter in Seoul," Mayor Park said in a statement released before the event, which consisted of a group dog walk, pet trick demonstrations and live music. "We will maintain the city as a slaughter-free place to promote the dignity of animal coexistence. If Seoul slaughter activity occurs again, we will use all means to block it."
All remaining dog-butchering businesses in Seoul agreed to stop the practice, the city government announced earlier in the week, saying that eight dog slaughter facilities at Gyeongdong Market and Jungang Market have already closed while three more will cease operations by the end of the month.
The mayor had pledged back in February to shut down the dog meat trade in Seoul after watching an animated film about stray animals called Underdog.
Koreans have been eating dogs for more than a thousand years and the practice is still legal. The meat is most commonly found in a stew called Bosintang, which is eaten on the hottest days of the summer and is believed by some to boost vitality.
However, dog meat has been falling increasingly out of favor. In 2018, a survey from pollster Gallup Korea found that 70 percent of South Koreans said they would not eat it in the future.
An amendment to the country's Animal Protection Act that would ban dog meat consumption was introduced in June of last year, but has not yet been taken up in South Korea's National Assembly.
Falling demand, negative public opinion and activist pressure have led to the closure of many of the country's larger slaughterhouses in recent years. Facilities at South Korea's largest dog meat trading market, Moran Market in Seongnam, south of Seoul, were shut down in 2018.
President Moon Jae-in also brought attention to the subject by adopting a mutt named Tory, who was rescued from a dog meat farm, in 2017.
Lee Kyung-nam, director of rescue group People Defending Animals, told UPI that dog adoption has grown dramatically in recent years and has had a major impact on changing attitudes about the dog meat trade. One in four South Korean adults owns a pet, according to a report released last December by KB Financial Group.
"The rapid growth in pet ownership really affects the dog slaughter industry," Lee said. "People think of dogs as part of the family these days."