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South Korea's parliament on Tuesday passed a bill to end the consumption and sale of dog meat, a move that would outlaw the centuries-old controversial practice amid growing support for animal welfare.

In the past, eating dog meat was considered a way to improve endurance in the humid Korean summer. But it has become a rarity — now mostly eaten by some older people — as more Koreans consider dogs as family pets and criticism mounts over the way dogs are euthanized.

Activists say most dogs are electrocuted or hanged when slaughtered for meat, though breeders and traders say progress has been made in making the slaughter more humane.

Support for the ban has grown under the presidency of Yoon Suk Yeol, an animal lover who has adopted six dogs and eight cats alongside first lady Kim Keon Hee, also a critic of dog meat consumption.

Proposed by the ruling party, the bill passed by an overwhelming majority of 208 votes in favor and two abstentions in the unicameral parliament, after its bipartisan agriculture committee approved it on Monday.

The legislation will enter into force after a three-year grace period. Failure to comply with the law is punishable by up to three years in jail or fines of 30 million won ($22,800).

"The bill would put an end to the breeding and killing of dogs for human consumption," said Borami Seo of Humane Society International Korea, an animal protection organization. "We have reached a crucial point in ridding millions of dogs from this cruel industry."

In a survey released Monday by Animal Welfare Awareness, Research and Education, a Seoul-based think tank, more than 94 percent of respondents said they had not eaten dog meat in the past year and about 93 percent said they would not do so in the future.

Previous attempts to ban dog meat failed in the face of industry protests, and the bill aims to provide compensation so companies can exit the trade.

In November, a group of about 200 dog breeders held a rally near the presidential office, demanding that the bill be scrapped.

The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that in April 2022, about 1,100 farms were breeding 570,000 dogs to serve in about 1,600 restaurants.

The Korean Edible Dog Association, a coalition of breeders and vendors, stated that the ban will affect 3,500 farms that raise 1.5 million dogs, as well as 3,000 restaurants.

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