South Korea shuts biggest puppy meat market in run-up to Olympics

Animals at Moran market in Seongnam were kept in inhumane conditions and killed use electrocution, hanging and beating

The shutters have started coming down at South Koreas biggest puppy meat market as the country seeks to head off international criticism over its practice of killing dogs for human consumption before it hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Moran market in Seongnam sells more than 80,000 dogs, dead or alive, every year and accounts for about a third of South Koreas dog meat consumption, according to local media.

On Monday, officials and traders began removing butchery facilities and cages in which live animals are maintained before they are slaughtered. The decision to close the market came after animal welfare campaigners highlighted the inhumane conditions in which the animals were maintained and the methods used to kill them: electrocution, hanging and beating.

The smell and noise had also prompted complaints from nearby residents.

The marketplaces close has met with opposition, however. South Korean media reported that a handful of the 22 puppy meat marketers who initially agreed to the move last December now oppose it, and are demanding compensation to make up for the loss of business.

Almost 80% of our customers visit our shops to buy fresh puppy meat, so what are they going to do if we cannot provide it for them? Is the governmental forces going to pay us? Shin Seung-cheol, a Moran trader, told the Korea Herald.

Animal rights activists lie in cages as part of a demo against feeing puppy meat in Seongnam in 2010. Photo: Park Ji-Hwan/ AFP/ Getty Images

Officials in Seongnam, a city near Seoul, told traders would be given financial support to refurbish their premises and open new business part of an attempt to remodel the open-air marketplace and aim its long association with the dog meat trade.

For decades, puppy meat marketers have taken advantage of a legal grey area: livestock hygiene laws do not apply to the killing and sale of puppies, making it difficult for authorities to regulate the industry.

Activists point out, though, that the animal protection law, while not expressly proscribing the slaughter of puppies, does proscribe brutal methods and the killing of animals in the open.

According to the Korean Statistics Information Service 892,820 dogs were being kept at more than 100 farms in 2010, reported the Korea Observer. Advocates of the industry assert that feeing dog meat can improve male masculinity and combat fatigue and illness, particularly during the hot summer months.

At Moran market, customers typically select live dogs which are then butchered in plain sight of shoppers.

Although only a small proportion of South Koreans regularly feed dog meat, thousands of restaurants and health food stores continue to sell it, mainly in soups and stews, or as a herb-infused tonic, according to International Aid for Korean Animals.

International criticism of dog meat intake intensified during the 2002 football World Cup, which South Korea jointly hosted with Japan. Some campaigners have launched online petitions calling for a boycott of next years Pyeongchang Olympics unless the country bans the eating of puppy meat.

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