A law passed last Tuesday (2 January) has meant that people will receive fines of up to US$300 if they are caught butchering or selling "fragrant meat," the slang name for dog meat.

Once common sights on countless Taiwanese streets, the popularity of dog meat eateries gradually waned as Western values influenced the country and the Taiwanese became more affluent. Cheng Tao-lung, who works for a lawmaker that supports the new law, commented: "Westerners treat dogs as their best friends or family members, and we should no longer tolerate such savage practices."

It was once thought that the meat had particular properties in strengthening the body against the winter cold, and even acting as an aphrodisiac. But now, it seems, the majority of urban Taiwanese perceive dog meat eaters as backward and cruel.

Elly Maynard, organiser of a worldwide petition against the legal consumption of dog meat, told just-food.com of the relief at the breakthrough: "Taiwan has shown the way in Asia for a momentous decision with regards to the welfare of Asian and Western breed dogs by outlawing the eating of the same and their use in the fur trade."

"Other countries can show they too are prepared to enter a new Millennium by doing the same thing," she added.

Campaigners will now be turning their full attention to China, where St Bernard meat farms have been established to provide for a growing market, and Korea, where some 17 lawmakers are pushing for the legalisation of dog meat eating.

In 1991, Korean legislation banned the display of slaughtered dogs as whole bodies in restaurant windows, but although the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry seems determined to revise such laws with a view to banning the sale of dog meat, it is uncertain whether they will outlaw the widespread practice of eating dog meat altogether.

A ministry official commented: "It is inappropriate to allow the use of dogs as edible meat ahead of the 2002 World Cup soccer games, which will be co-hosted by Korea and Japan."

To read about the petition against the classification of dog as an edible animal, which is due to be presented to the UN in June of this year, click here.