On May 15th, 2016, a television program, “TV Animal Farm” of SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) aired a documentary named, “The Uncomfortable Truth of the Dog Factory.” People who watched the broadcast were shocked by the reality and condition of the dog factory where forced mating, artificial insemination, and surgery without a license are conducted on dogs. In the factory, the dogs experience repetitive pregnancy and childbirth in an unhygienic environment for their entire lives. On March 2nd, 2017, after the broadcast, 15 amendments of the Animal Protection Law were finally passed with the continued efforts of many citizens, organizations, and members of parliament.
The Animal Protection Law is strengthened to prevent animals from being abused
After the bills have passed in March, there will be changes in the rights of animals. Existing animal breeding places had been able to operate after submitting documents only, but now they have to be approved by the local government. The act of capturing animals to sell or kill them, for example, slaughtering the stray cat without owners to sell is classified as an animal abuse and is forbidden. Before the revision, a person who was cruel to animals was sentenced up to one year in prison or fined ten million won or less. Now, animal abuse is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment or up to 20 million won fine.
Also, the new law toughens up penalties for animal abandonment and illegal sales. Reporting a person that does not obey the basic rules such as attaching an animal identification tag and leashing a dog will be rewarded. These measures will be implemented in March 2018, one year after the promulgation. More specific contents and standards of the legislation will be decided later.
The media effected on recognition of the public to revise the law
Many animal protection groups and people who raise pets have been demanding amendments of Animal Protection Law. Until now, there have been animal abuse incidents like Cheongju cat abuse case, which someone stabbed a cat’s stomach with a thick branch in August 2015. However, people were interested in animal welfare only at that time and there has been no real improvement like revising laws after the incident.
There were a lot of arguments after the poor condition of the dog factory was on the air. Images and videos of the broadcast continued to appear on SNS, and people’s interest has continued over time. Those who already watched the documentary were also able to reconsider the severity by watching the video again, and those who did not watch the video could get to know the reality of the dog factory.
The public felt the necessity of the Animal Protection Law revision through the media. Since then, the voices of the amendment of the Animal Protection Act have become more and more popular nationwide. Over 300 thousand people and famous celebrities participated in the signing campaign, which took online for the elimination of the dog factories and the revision of the Animal Protection Act.
Efforts of animal protection groups and members of the National Assembly
Animal protection groups and veterinary groups that were active in the field gathered together and formally formulated “Animal-related Organization Representative Council for Amendment of the Animal Protection Law” on May 25th, 2016. The Council held a “Candlelight Festival” every Wednesday from July 6th 2016 to March 2nd 2017, until the revision was completed, and a forum and civic cultural festival to call for the amendment of Animal Protection Law.
On September 14 th, people are participating in 11th “Candlelight Festival” to demand revising Animal Protection Law.
/Photography from "Tinker Bell"
Hwang Dong-yeol, the representative of an animal protection group “Tinkerbell Project,” is doing an Interview with The Dongguk Post.
/Photograph by Hwang Hae-su
Hwang Dong-yeol, the assistant administrator of the Council and representative of an animal protection group “Tinkerbell Project,” said, “In fact, before the ‘TV Animal Farm’ broadcasted, we prepared to call for the revision. Thanks to the broadcast, our efforts could get more attention. Last February, lawmaker Han Jeoung-ae called me to prepare the act for the revision of the law. After that, we gathered 22 animal protection groups. That was how we started Animal-related Organization Representative Council.” He added, “Last August, the debate on the revision of the Animal Protection Law was held on weekdays, but a lot of people participated to fill the 500 seats. It touched my heart because it is not easy to fill the whole seats on weekdays.”
In addition, lawmakers belonging to “Animal Welfare Assembly Forum” participated in various events held by the Council and proposed the Animal Protection Law to Parliament. Especially, lawmaker Han Jeoung-ae has played a big role in passing legislation by persuading the members of the National Assembly Agricultural and Fisheries Committee to pass the law.
Expectation and the meaning of revising the law
The Animal Protection Law, which had been neglected, was finally passed through the 20th National Assembly. The Animal Protection Law whose contents were very poor was first enacted in 1991. Although the full amendment was made in August 2011, it had still a lot of deficiencies. Even if cruel animal abuse occurred, no abuser received a penalty of imprisonment. The public, organizations, and members of the National Assembly, who are interested in animal welfare, have made a lot of efforts to revise the poor law. However, other lawmakers were not interested in the law, so it took a long time to pass.
Lee Hak-buem, Editor-in-Chief of “Dailyvet,” the only veterinary press in Korea, and veterinarian, said, “The bill’s validity is highly enough to get agreement from the members of the National Assembly Agricultural and Fisheries Committee who were indifferent to animal welfare. In other words, now, there is a lot of sympathy that it is necessary to revise the Animal Protection Law at this level.”
The bills will take effect in one year after the proclamation. Breeding animals without being aware of animal welfare will become impossible in March 2018, when the amendment to the Animal Protection Act is actually in effect. Editor Lee anticipated enforcement of the law saying, “It is also expected that the level of animal welfare will develop one step further. In the case of the permission system of animal breeding places, it will take three to five years to get settled. Since so many places are secretly operating, it will take long time for all such places to close or obtain permission.”
Limits of Animal Protection Act and the ways for better animal welfare
There are some exceptions from the amendment expected. “Anyone should not kill animals except when permitted by law,” “Animal emergency isolation measures for witnesses of animal cruelty,” “Restriction of animal ownership of animal abusers,” and “Forbidding dog meat” are not included in this revision of the laws. Even if you encounter animal abuse, you cannot quarantine the animal from the person, and you still have to give it away a few days after you quarantine it. Editor Lee agitated that the opposition of dog meat must be done saying, “Pros and cons of dog meat have been always controversial. Even if dog meat is not prohibited, I hope that the number of people who eat dog meat decrease. Other livestock products such as cows and pigs are managed safely. All dog farms selling dog meat are illegally operated without any inspection and management. Remember this point and question whether that the dog meat is good for your body.”
In addition, Im Jeong-yeon (Sophomore, Business Administration) who raises a dog, hoped many people would notice and appreciate the amendment. She said, “If people do not recognize the law, its purpose will not be fulfilled.”
Meanwhile, the animal protection education in elementary schools, which is currently being piloted from 2012, has responded well to students. Through the education, students can learn the importance of animal care and welfare; therefore, it contributes to prevention of animal abuse.
Germany, where citizens consider their pets as lifelong partners
Germany is one of the developed countries where people care about animals' welfare, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Switzerland. Germany has 180 years of animal protection history. Basically, there is an abandoned animal protection center, Tierheim, in each city which is carrying out a role as animal’s home. With 175 years of history, Tierheim in Berlin is the largest and oldest animal shelter in Germany, with a total area of 20 thousand square meters. There, 1,400 different animals such as dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, sheep, and pigs are watched after in large spaces separated by species. It costs about 8 million euros (about 9.9 billion won) every year to operate. Even though it costs a large amount of money, the Center is mostly maintained with donations. Since it is sponsored by more than 150 thousand members, it can be maintained through charity funds.
There are no such “abandoned pets” which the owner abandons irresponsibly in Germany unlike in Korea. If German cannot raise their pets for personal reasons anymore, for example, suffering from dog allergies, or moving into the other country, they can take their pets to Tierheim. Then, they sign an ownership of animal waiver form and pay 30 to 50 euros (50 to 250 thousand won). After that, the pets are protected safely at Tierheim until someone appears to adopt the animals. Since there are no “pet shops,” where people even who are ignorant about animals can sell kittens and puppies, in Germany. Therefore, if someone wants to raise animals, he would adopt from professional breeders or Tierheim.
|A dog is playing in the spacious outdoor area of Tierheim in Munich./Photography from "Tinker Bell"|
Representative Hwang of “Tinkerbell Project,” and other 14 people visited Tiergeim in Munich and Berlin from 8th to 16th October in 2015 to learn Germany’s advanced animal shelter culture. He explained that German and Korean differ in their perception of the pet each other, saying, “The Germans ‘universally’ consider their pets as partners and family members forever.”
With the continued interest and efforts of many people, some lawmakers proposed Animal Protection Law, and most of them were passed. However, Animal Protection Act requires more amendments, including bills that have not been passed, and there are still many things to do for animals’ welfare. Editor Lee counseled that we should build a society where humans and animals coexist saying, “There are many people who say that humans are too hardscrabble to care about animal. However, considering animal rights is not about giving up human rights. That is, it is not a matter of choosing either human or animal. What if we care about the rights of animals that are weaker than humans, just as we protect other second-class citizens such as the elderly and children?”
Hwang Hae-su firstname.lastname@example.org
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