AN OLYMPIC skier has ruffled some feathers in South Korea after adopting a puppy from a dog meat farm during his time in Pyeongchang for the games. Locals have accused the American of cultural colonialism and imposing western double standards on Korean culture.
Augustus Richard Kenworthy, who goes by Gus, posted a photo of himself and his new furry friend, along with his boyfriend, actor Matt Wilkas. In the post, Kenworthy explained that, while eating dog meat may be “part of Korean culture,” the poor treatment of the over 2.5 million dogs being raised in farms, was “completely inhumane” and could not be tolerated for cultural reasons.
This morning Matt and I had a heart-wrenching visit to one of the 17,000 dog farms here in South Korea. Across the country there are 2.5 million dogs being raised for food in some of the most disturbing conditions imaginable. Yes, there is an argument to be made that eating dogs is a part of Korean culture. And, while don’t personally agree with it, I do agree that it’s not my place to impose western ideals on the people here. The way these animals are being treated, however, is completely inhumane and culture should never be a scapegoat for cruelty. I was told that the dogs on this particular farm were kept in “good conditions” by comparison to other farms. The dogs here are malnourished and physically abused, crammed into tiny wire-floored pens, and exposed to the freezing winter elements and scorching summer conditions. When it comes time to put one down it is done so in front of the other dogs by means of electrocution sometimes taking up to 20 agonizing minutes. Despite the beliefs of some, these dogs are no different from the ones we call pets back home. Some of them were even pets at one time and were stolen or found and sold into the dog meat trade. Luckily, this particular farm (thanks to the hard work of the Humane Society International and the cooperation of a farmer who’s seen the error of his ways) is being permanently shut down and all 90 of the dogs here will be brought to the US and Canada where they’ll find their fur-ever homes. I adopted the sweet baby in the first pic (we named her Beemo) and she’ll be coming to the US to live with me as soon as she’s through with her vaccinations in a short couple of weeks. I cannot wait to give her the best life possible! There are still millions of dogs here in need of help though (like the Great Pyrenees in the 2nd pic who was truly the sweetest dog ever). I’m hoping to use this visit as an opportunity to raise awareness to the inhumanity of the dog meat trade and the plight of dogs everywhere, including back home in the US where millions of dogs are in need of loving homes! Go to @hsiglobal’s page to see how you can help. #dogsarefriendsnotfood #adoptdontshop ❤️🐶
“There is an argument to be made that eating dogs is a part of Korean culture. And, while don’t personally agree with it, I do agree that it’s not my place to impose western ideals on the people here,” Kenworthy said.
“The way these animals are being treated, however, is completely inhumane and culture should never be a scapegoat for cruelty.”
The farm from which Kenworthy adopted his new pet is being shut down, according to his post, and all the dogs will be sent to Canada and the US to find permanent homes.
The Olympian’s intended good deed has sparked criticism online from those that feel his campaign for animal welfare is imposing a double standard and ignoring the many animals being slaughtered and eaten in Western countries.
“This is neo-colonialism at its finest. Just because you like dogs doesn’t make eating pigs/cows/chicken etc any more moral. Especially when they are treated in equally barbaric ways,” said one Twitter user.
Another asked if he was also going protest the “appalling farming conditions” in America too, rather than focus only on non-Western countries.
great so now you’re going to protest the appalling farming conditions in America too right? or are you only going to take the moral high ground when it comes to Eastern countries?
— Abby (@goabby19) February 23, 2018
— Monica (@monicitalezama) February 23, 2018
Many pointed out that the majority of South Koreans, especially the younger generation, also do not agree with the practice.
look i get where you are coming from and i respect that you are bringing awareness to the topic. Although it is true that there is a few of dog farms in S.Korea dont act like you know the population’s views on it. I know that way more the the population in Korea are against it
— ||Kpopinini 🌐 (@ninisw33t) February 23, 2018
A few notes:
1) Most Koreans do not eat dogs, and are against the practice, especially amongst young people.
2) While Kenworthy acknowledges the potential imposition of western standards, reality is 9 billion chickens are killed every year vs. 30 million dogs in Asian countries. https://t.co/1xOn84GidB
— Joon Lee (@iamjoonlee) February 24, 2018
Pressure has been mounting on the South Korean government to ban the practice, which has been around for generations. Prior to the Olympics activists demanded a ban on the selling and eating of the meat. Some Olympians took up the cause during the Pyeongchang Games, and South Korea offered money to restaurant owners near Olympic venues if they took dog meat off their menus.
Dutch speed skater, Jan Blokhuijsen, landed himself in hot water when he said, “please treat dogs better in this country,” during a press conference at the games. Netizens were quick to accuse him of racism and some suggested Blokhuijsen should be reported to the International Olympic Committee.
Humane Society International estimates there are 17,000 dog meat farms in Korea, in an industry annually providing an estimated 2 million dogs for slaughter.