South Korean president Moon Jae-in has raised the prospect of banning dog meat consumption in the country, a practice that has prompted rising anger as debates over animal rights have become more widespread.
During a briefing with prime minister Kim Boo-kyum about the handling of abandoned animals, the president proposed a careful consideration of a ban on dog meat, according to presidential spokesperson Park Kyung-mee.
“After the briefing, he said the time has come to carefully consider imposing a dog meat ban,” Ms Park told the South Korean press.
Dog meat has long been a part of South Korean cuisine, with between 780,000 and a million dogs being consumed annually in South Korea, according to the non-profit Korean Animal Rights Advocates (KARA).
Some breeds are raised specifically for meat and used in traditional dishes.
Dogs were earlier legally considered livestock in South Korea. Of late – with the emergence of animal rights movements and new animal-protection laws – this status has been disputed, especially as dogs are increasingly treated as pets.
The consumption of dog meat in the younger generation has also been on the decline for the past few years and people have been more vocal in demanding a ban.
This is the first time Mr Moon has raised the idea of a dog meat ban, although the issue has been a source of political conflict for decades.
Reuters pointed out that a poll commissioned by animal welfare group Aware this month found 78 per cent of respondents believed the production and sale of dog and cat meat should be prohibited and 49 per cent supported a consumption ban.
But another survey by polling firm Realmeter found people divided over whether consumption should be banned, even though 59 per cent supported legal restrictions on dog slaughter for human consumption.