South Korea has shut down the country’s largest dog meat factory, a move animal rights activists hope could signal the end of a practice that sees about a million of the animals slaughtered every year.
Government officials began dismantling a massive slaughterhouse complex in Seongnam city, a suburb of Seoul, on Thursday that was large enough to hold hundreds of dogs at a time. Dog meat is eaten as a delicacy in some parts of South Korea, often during summer, Agency France-Presse notes, and the dish is believed to increase energy.
The practice has grown out of fashion in recent years, however, as more South Koreans have begun to keep dogs as pets and younger people increasingly see it as taboo.
Animal rights groups praised the move, and Humane Society International said it would “prevent any dogs from being slaughtered here in the future.”
“As Korea’s biggest, brutal, illegal dog slaughterhouse, Taepyeong-dong is notorious for supplying huge amounts of dog bodies to nearby Seongnam Moran traditional market,” Hyunji Kim, a member of Korea Animal Rights Advocates, told CNN this week. “Its closure is an historical event, and hopefully may trigger the closure of other illegal dog slaughterhouses throughout the country.”
Activists had long described scenes of horror at the Seongnam complex, saying dogs were often killed with electricity or in front of other dogs. The site was been built illegally and the city council first said it planned to shut it down in 2013. There are still many more slaughterhouses around the country.
AFP notes that a recent survey found some 70 percent of Koreans don’t eat dog meat, but only 40 percent believe the practice should be outlawed.
The government is expected to clear the complex over the next few days and then turn it into a public park.