SEOUL—Straight from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, U.S. freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy joined the animal rescue team from Humane Society International at a dog meat farm in Gyeonggi-do province where the charity is working to save the more than 80 dogs from slaughter.
Gus, who recently was featured in an #EndDogMeat PSA video for Humane Society International alongside fellow Olympians Meagan Duhamel and Lindsey Jacobellis, hopes his dog farm visit will help shine a spotlight on the cruelty. Gus said: “Coming to this dog meat farm with HSI has been a real eye-opener. It’s so upsetting to see these dogs in such appalling conditions, many of them crammed four or five to a tiny cage with absolutely no room to move. And yet despite their inhumane conditions, they remain gentle and eager for attention.
HSI has worked in South Korea for the past three years and so far permanently closed down 10 dog meat farms. The more than 1,200 dogs rescued to date are now in new homes in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The farm closures are a key part of the charity’s broader strategy to demonstrate to the government a working model to phase out the estimated 17,000 dog meat farms across the country. Participating dog farmers enter a legally binding contract with HSI to close their farms. They work cooperatively with the charity to transition to humane livelihoods such as water delivery or chili pepper farming. The Gyeonggi-do farmer, who has raised dogs for human consumption for 10 years, will now grow mushrooms.
This is the second time Kenworthy has worked with HSI to help dogs. In 2014, the Olympian rescued street dogs during the Sochi Games in Russia and, with HSI’s help, he returned home with them. Now, following the Pyeongchang Games, Kenworthy plans to repeat the mercy mission by adopting a pup into his family.
Kenworthy said: “For our little guy, Beemo, the dog meat trade ordeal is over, but it’s horrifying to think that so many dogs just like them are still suffering this fate across South Korea. I’m proud to highlight Humane Society International’s amazing dog farm closure campaign because it’s a very practical solution to a highly emotive problem. They’re showing how you can help dog farmers like Mr. Kim and these beautiful dogs at the same time, and I think that’s the key to ending this trade for good.”
Although most people in South Korea don’t regularly eat dogs and the practice is increasingly unpopular with young Koreans, an estimated 2.5 million dogs of all types are still bred and killed each year for human consumption. Most are killed by electrocution or hanging at one year old, and breeding dogs spend their entire lives in barren metal cages producing endless litters of puppies. Alongside Korean jindos and tosas, HSI has found beagles, huskies, golden retrievers, Chihuahuas, Afghan hounds and Saint Bernards on the dog meat farms it has closed down.
HSI Korea’s Nara Kim says that it’s a mistake to excuse dog meat by calling it culture: “It’s very puzzling to me that anyone should say eating dogs is okay because it’s cultural. If culture is what defines a nation, it would be very shaming for ours to be defined by animal cruelty. While eating dogs may be a custom for some of the older generation, most Koreans, young and old, have nothing to do with this brutal trade. It’s time for South Korea to consign dog meat farming to the history books.”
- President Moon Jae-in recently adopted a dog named Tory who was said to be rescued from a dog meat farm.
- Up to 80 percent of dog meat consumption is during the hottest days of summer, called Bok Nal. Dog meat is usually made into a soup called bosintang. Small dogs can also be made into a herbal drink called Gaesoju.
- The dog meat industry is in legal limbo in South Korea, neither legal nor illegal. Many provisions of the Animal Protection Act are routinely breached, such as the ban on killing animals in a brutal way including hanging by the neck, killing in public areas or in front of other animals of the same species.
- An estimated 30 million dogs are brutally killed and eaten each year in parts of Asia. Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore have laws in place prohibiting the trade, on grounds of both animal welfare and human health/ disease control.
For more information, visit hsi.org/dogmeat
Download high resolution images and b-roll footage here.