With one in five South Korean households now including a pet dog or a cat, it stands to reason that dog meat is becoming less welcome on restaurant menus in South Korea. Last week, the country’s long tradition of eating canines took a hit when Daegyo, an acclaimed Seoul restaurant that has been serving dog meat since 1981, doled out its last serving of boshintang, or dog stew.
The Associated Press interviewed the restaurant’s chef and owner Oh Keum-il, who made a name for herself as a dog meat specialist and advocate, and used to serve over 700 bowls of dog stew a day. In recent years, with a new generation’s growing affection for canines as beloved pets, she saw a decline in demand, she told the AP. “There are no young customers,” she said. To cater to the changing times, Keum-il plans to reopen the restaurant as a Korean beef barbecue diner.
For years, customers would line up outside Daegyo for dog meat dishes, even as animal rights activists protesting outside the restaurant urged them not go in. Young South Koreans, many of them having grown up watching television shows featuring dogs as loyal human companions, part ways with their parents and grandparents over whether the animals are for cuddling or butchering.
One butcher interviewed by the AP said the dog meat business in Seoul has shrunk to half of what it once was. He estimates that there used to be 1,500 restaurants serving dog in Seoul, and now there are only 700 to 800 on his list. There is no official data on the dog meat industry in South Korea, and the trade, neither explicitly legal or illegal, is not regulated.
The country’s minister of food and drug safety said in July that he had quit eating dog meat shortly after taking office in 2013, prompting the Wall Street Journal to ask, “If South Korea doesn’t have a dog meat problem, why has the head of the nation’s food agency stopped eating it?”