Olympian Gus Kenworthy teams up with HSI to rescue dogs from South Korea’s meat trade

By on March 1, 2018 with 13 Comments

It’s a far cry from the thrills and spills of the slopestyle and the halfpipe to the shabby squalor of a dog meat farm, but that did not deter Gus Kenworthy from making the journey. As the Winter Games at Pyeongchang came to an end, the U.S. freestyle skier joined the Humane Society International rescue team at a dog meat farm in South Korea’s Gyeonggi-do province where HSI is now working on rescuing more than 80 dogs destined for the stew pot or the grill. It was so moving for Gus that he decided to adopt one dog, Beemo, who will live with him in the United States once the farm closure is complete.

Gus has worked with HSI before to protect dogs. I had a chance to meet him four years ago when we worked with him to rescue street dogs in Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Olympics. Gus, who won a silver medal at Sochi, was determined to rescue a mother dog and her puppies and HSI was able to send them home to the United States. But this was his first experience at a dog meat farm, the 11th such farm we are closing in three years. The rescues are part of our wider strategy to show the South Korean government a working model for phasing out the industry for good, and to show dog farmers how quickly and easily they can shift to more humane livelihoods; the Gyeonggi-do farmer, who has been in the dog meat business for 10 years, plans to grow mushrooms.

An estimated 2.5 million dogs of all types are still bred and killed each year for human consumption in South Korea, most by electrocution or hanging when they are just a year old. Photo by Jean Chung/For HSI

Gus recently appeared with fellow Olympians Meagan Duhamel and Lindsey Jacobellis in our #EndDogMeat PSA video, hoping to shine a spotlight on dog meat cruelty. But he also wanted to experience a dog farm first-hand, and that’s what led him to join the HSI team. It was, he said, “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.” Still, he noted, despite their inhumane conditions, “they remain gentle and eager for attention.”

Gus wasn’t the only rescuer moved by the sight of the dogs. HSI’s Nara Kim, a team member of our dog meat campaign in South Korea, took a special fancy to Christopher, a Great Pyrenees the team found chained up on the farm. “He’s as wonderful and loving as a dog gets. Upon seeing us, he starts to wag his tail and his whole big, furry body nearly levitates with his eagerness. We shower him with affection whenever possible; he’s a love bug of a dog, despite his circumstances.”

An estimated 30 million dogs are killed and eaten each year in parts of Asia. In some nations, it’s banned or restricted, but in South Korea it’s in a kind of limbo, neither legal nor illegal. An estimated 2.5 million dogs of all types are still bred and killed each year for human consumption in South Korea, most by electrocution or hanging when they are just a year old.

HSI’s Lola Webber, left, and Nara Kim with one of the dogs HSI is rescuing from the dog meat farm in South Korea. Photo by Jean Chung/For HSI

HSI has worked in South Korea for the past three years. The more than 1,200 dogs rescued to date have been flown into the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for a chance to find a loving forever home. Most of the dogs from this farm will be heading to Canada, except Beemo, who will fly to the United States to be with Gus.

Read next: HSI closing down 15th dog meat farm in Korea; 90 dogs saved from slaughter

We had long been looking to the Pyeongchang Games as an opportunity to focus attention on the cruelty of dog meat farming and the dog meat trade. And with Gus’s globally-reported farm visit, our eye-catching full-page advertisements in national Korean newspapers, face-to-face meetings with Korean National Assembly members, and our mobile dog farm campaign bus driven across Seoul and beyond with partner group KARA, we’ve certainly achieved that. But the Olympics was just one juncture in a much longer campaign that we’ll wage until there are no more dog meat farms or dogs on the dinner plate. It’s a year-round, multi-year effort and one that we’re pushing forward in a number of countries, and we need your help.

We’re grateful to all the other athletes who spoke up for dogs this month, but we’re especially indebted to Gus Kenworthy, a true champion in our book. He didn’t take home the gold but he certainly has a heart of gold. As for Beemo, she is a lucky dog.

Help protect dogs and cats in South Korea >>

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals, Humane Society International

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  1. Michele OBrien says:

    Hi… I think this is wonderful, I think it is noteworthy and it always helps to bring attention to this horrible situation when there are well-known people involved. That’s said I think a much bigger statement would have been made had the Olympics not been awarded to South Korea at all or, since they were, if most Nations boycotted those Olympics. Is a gold medal, or any medal for that matter, worth more than a dog’s life? Not to me! Now I understand that the next Winter Olympics will be in China. I find that absolutely appalling and disgraceful. Awarding countries for their outrageously inhumane and disgustingly cruel Behavior is not right. Countries that engage in such despicable activities should be penalized and never awarded such a prestigious event. And while celebrities bring attention to this nightmare I think more attention should be paid by the general public to the amazing people in China and in South Korea who live there, live this nightmare and try to rescue these dogs on a daily basis. These groups need money desperately. They need support desperately. They do their work on a daily basis with little resources and constantly need to go to their followers before help. Please consider supporting Slaughterhouse Survivors in Harbin China: The Yulin 9, also in Harbin or very near by and Candy Cane rescue just to name a few. Please look them up on Instagram to get an idea of what they do. It is amazing. One of these groups, Slaughterhouse Survivors, is currently trying to buy a property to build a proper housing facility for all the dogs that they rescue and send to Europe, the United States and Canada. These people are true heroes for these dogs caught under these Dreadful circumstances. I urge you to support them. Thank you

    • Doris Muller says:

      Dear Michele, you ask, “Is a gold medal, or any medal for that matter, worth more than a dog’s life?” Unfortunately, for many, the answer is yes! The news is always filled with accounts of the devious, unethical, and many times, the brutality committed against animals for human pleasure and for the goal of being the winner and/or for financial gain: animals in circuses, puppy and kitten mills, the iditarod, canned hunting, Michael Vick, pigeon shoots, and the killing of animals around the world for human consumption, to name a few.

      In the case of the dog-“meat” market, there wouldn’t be a market if there was nothing to gain. Those who support the brutality by their purchases are EQUALLY guilty of fueling these mass murders.

      Human nature, being what it is, is famous for excusing itself from the complicity of the horrors of any animals-as-food industries, because to acknowledge the complicity might result in the complicitor having to deny me-myself-and-I the pleasure of *feeding* my taste-addiction.

      Humans are the most dangerous predators on earth

  2. deborah vandamme says:

    Thank you so very much for all you do to save the dogs from the HORRIFIC and CRIMINAL dog meat industry!

  3. saadia ali says:

    All praise be to GOD that there are still those of the human race that harbor, at least, some compassion in their hearts for the voiceless creatures of this earth. We will all be questioned how we treated with HIS creation…May HE bless all of us that try, to help the animals and plants as they strive to survive this man controlled world and all those men and women that have dedicated their lives to this constant struggle….AAMEEN

  4. Donna says:

    How can someone help these dogs?? I want to be able help!!

  5. Dewaine says:

    Perhaps we could all learn to try something other than flesh for our diet. It’s silly and hypocritical to go after someone for one type of flesh while actively consuming another.

  6. Robin Bean says:

    So just why was South Korea granted the Olympics when they partake in this inhumane practice? I do not understand the Olympic Comittee and the world condoning this by granting them the money brought in by the Olympics. Until this world begins holding people accountable it will continue on its pathway to destruction. Just ridiculous.

  7. Dazeera Mourad says:

    I am in joyful tears for the help that everyone is giving these poor dogs. I just donated but would love to help in any other way. This government should change their ugly ways with dogs. This is JUST THE BEGINNING. China and North Korea are just as bad.

  8. Dazeera Mourad says:

    I have time and I have some 40 acres of land that can be developed for helping animals.

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