In many parts of Asia - particularly China and South Korea - it is culturally acceptable to eat dog meat and the sale and consumption of dog meat is legal.
However, I appreciate that dogs used for meat are often kept in terrible conditions and I share constituents concerns about the barbaric nature of this trade and the inhumane way in which so many innocent animals are treated in its production. I therefore welcome the work of a wide range of animal welfare organisations in raising awareness of this issue. It is also the case, of course, that this industry presents a serious threat to human health.
As has been highlighted there was a debate in Westminster Hall on 12 September 2016 in relation to South Korea and the dog meat trade. This debate was granted after a petition calling on the UK Government to urge the South Korean government to end the dog meat trade has been signed by over 101,000 people. This debate followed a previous debate in the House of Commons on 5 November 2015 which called for an immediate end to dog meat trade cruelty and called on the Chinese government to stop the Yulin dog meat festival where thousands of dogs are cruelly bound, confined, trucked and slaughtered for meat each year. I am concerned that this festival continues despite huge pressure for it to stop. The motion was agreed to in the House of Commons on 5 November without a vote.
The UK Government points out that in the absence of international laws governing the trade and consumption of dog meat, the UK has no legal grounds to intervene or take trade measures against countries where the consumption of dog meat is regarded as culturally acceptable. However, the Government has said that it is prepared to tackle cultural norms, particularly when it comes to the consumption and use of animals, and that it will continue to raise concerns with countries engaged in the trade and the consumption of dog meat.
The Government has also issued a response to the petition about South Korea, in which it has stated that the UK continues to raise the issue of the ongoing consumption of dog meat in the Republic of Korea. The Government also states that the British Embassy in Seoul has raised the issue of cruelty towards animals on numerous occasions with the South Korean authorities and explained that the UK public and parliamentarians would like to see Korean regulation that would bring the practice to an end. The Government says it will continue to seek further opportunities to raise the issue, in particular as we approach the Winter Olympics in 2018, and that it will monitor developments in the Republic of Korea.
While the Government cannot legislate beyond the UK, I hope it will continue to use every diplomatic and other opportunities to ensure these cruel and hazardous practices are brought to an end and that it will press counterparts around the world to collaborate in efforts to change attitudes and reduce animal suffering.