Wild Animal Cafés Will Soon Be Banned In South Korea After Years Of Complaints From Activist Groups

“Exhibiting such wild animals in indoor settings is undesirable.”

South Korea will soon make it illegal to operate cafés that feature wild animals. The Korean Ministry of Environment released a statement on Friday regarding the existence of these establishments and their harmful effects on the animals they procure.

There are 159 such cafés nationwide where raccoons, meerkats, prairie dogs as well as various amphibians and reptiles are on display.

— Ministry of Environment

Meerkats in a Hongdae café | Chichicho

These establishments have marketed themselves as unique places to stay while spending time with rare wildlife in the middle of the city. Though many observe strict rules inside their stores to regulate guest behavior, the Ministry of Environment has deemed the very act of exhibiting wild animals as “undesirable from an ecological point of view.”

Exhibiting such wild animals in indoor settings, besides zoos, is undesirable from an ecological point of view and for their welfare, so we are planning to move them to more adequate facilities.

— Ministry of Environment

| Wall Street Journal

There are already plans to move these animals to the National Institute of Ecology in Seocheon County, South Chungcheong Province. Considering that there are almost 200 cafes operating in this business, an additional two more protection facilities will be ready for use by 2025. Ten wildlife protection centers will be temporarily opened as protection for the abandoned or privately raised wild animals in the mean time.

National Institute of Ecology | The Korea Herald

In 2017, activist group Aware raised concerns over the treatment of some wildlife, mostly racoons, in nine cafes in Seoul. They observed that they were stressed from the constant exposure to customers all day long. Many were also sick and lethargic.

| The Korea Herald

They further cited instances of poor hygiene such as used potty pads being left out in the open and the lack of access to a sink for customers to use. Only one in nine businesses had a sink which visitors could use to wash their hands after petting the animals.

| The Korea Herald

The wild animal cafés will cease operations in three to five years after the bill passes the National Assembly.

Besides restaurants, cafés, and other petting establishments, zoos that are set to open will also be under strict scrutiny. They will need to meet requirements for animal protection, hygiene, and safety within five years of opening or else they will be forced to shut down.

Source: The Korea Herald and The Korea Times