This past month the National Assembly of South Korea amended the Animal Protection Law (APL) to provide fundamental rights of life for animals, and toughen the punishments for those who violate them. As of February 2012, offenders found guilty of cruelly killing or unfairly injuring an animal, maybe punished by a year in prison or fine of up to 10 million won.
Four years in the making, the amendment came about through from the tireless efforts of Voice4Animal, CARE, KAAP and Congressmen Cho Seung Soo and Hyo Seok Kim; who managed to win over an unreceptive government. Its ratification is an acknowledgment that it’s time for the law to reflect the views of the country. But is the new animal protection law enough and will it be enforced?
The purpose of the law change is to reduce animal cruelty and abandonment; Necessary to keep up with the growing trend of pet ownership. Owners are now obliged to register their pets in efforts to curb abandonment which peaked last year at 100,899, four times that of 2003 figures.
However, regulations for businesses that sell animals have been eased from mandatory registration to voluntary reporting, making it difficult to monitor indiscreet dog breeders.
So Youn Park from Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) informed me that the organization had recently rescued two Pyrenees dogs from an abandoned breeding business, dumped by the owner when it became unprofitable. Unattended and locked in their cages, the other 25 dogs had not been so lucky and either starved to death or died from the harsh winter. CARE workers found rats feeding on their bodies. These stories provide the motivation for stricter animal protection laws.
Under the new APL “Five Freedoms for Animals” state that cruelties, such as starving, neglecting, allowing an animal to become or remain diseased or making an animal fearful will be punished with fines or by imprisonment.In addition the APL establishes the formation of a ‘National Animals Welfare Committee’, set up to oversee animal welfare issues.
“On paper it is a good thing”, says Leo Mendoza owner of Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary (BAPS). “However, even though we appreciate the sentiment behind it, they have not lain out enforcement requirements and despite the fact that there are currently laws against the torture of animals, there has never been strict enforcement.”
So Youn Park shared his sentiments, ‘The Act does not include the definition of animal abuse, humanitarian rearing, transportation and butchery of animals or the prohibition of [animals being] buried alive.’ The most recent live burials took place in February. 4,000 pigs were buried alive in Paju, Gyeonggi, suspected to have contracted Foot and Mouth Disease. The newly established provision on the “humanitarian disposal” of animals may sound absolute, but it’s open to interpretation.
The Kyunghyang Shinmun wrote, “these reforms are a significant first step for consciousness regarding animal protection in Korean society”. It is a misconception that compassion for animals is at the expense of that for humans and hopefully this small victory will encourage people’s enthusiastic participation in future campaigns on animal issues.