About 50 animal farmers gathered on 25th April 2023 near the office of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol protesting against the first lady’s comments on ending certain meat consumption. The first lady, Kim Keon Hee, reportedly told animal rights activists that she hoped to see a ban on some meats during her husband’s presidency, which will last until 2027. The animal farmers argued that she had no authority to make such a promise and that she was infringing on their rights to livelihood and happiness.
It is believed that this is the first time that the spouse of a head of state has made public comments suggesting the banning of some meats, but officials claim the comments were taken out of context.
Eating animals is a traditional practice in South Korea, but eating some animals has been declining in popularity due to changing public attitudes and animal welfare campaigns. The government has set up a committee to seek a social consensus on the issue, but no progress has been made so far. The animal farmers demanded that the government either compensate them for their losses or allow them to continue their business for another 15-20 years until the demand for their meat dies out.
The meat of certain animals is neither legally protected nor explicitly banned in South Korea. During election campaigning, Mr Yoon said he personally opposed dog meat consumption but formulating a policy on outlawing it would require a public consensus. It has been reported that Ms Kim and Mr Yoon live with six dogs and five cats as companion animals, rather than as food. Chae IlTaek, an activist at the Korean Animal Welfare Association, said, “Dog meat consumption is an anachronistic business that should have been shut down.”