The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang were truly a time for the world’s athletes to shine. Their physical feats are incredible on their own merits, but some athletes went above and beyond by using their moment in the international spotlight to make a humanitarian statement.
Gus Kenworthy is definitely one of them. Not only did he compete in freestyle skiing for Team USA and proudly represented the LGBTQ community, but he made a difference off the slopes in South Korea as well.
Kenworthy shared in an Instagram post that he and his boyfriend, actor Matthew Wilkas, rescued 90 dogs from a South Korean dog meat farm. With help from the Humane Society International and cooperation of the farm owner, they permanently shut down the farm’s operations.
Man’s Best Friend
Humane Society International will help put the released pups up for adoption in U.S. and Canada, “where they’ll find their fur-ever homes.”
The Olympian explained that he wants to shed light on the inhumane conditions the dogs endure on the farms, like frigid winter temperatures and the scorching heat of summer without any protection. He also wants to “raise awareness to the inhumanity of the dog meat trade.” Indeed, Taiwan banned eating dog (and cat) meat last year over similar concerns.
Here’s Kenworthy’s post where he explained what he did:
Kenworthy acknowledged in his post that eating dog meat is a part of Korean culture and he isn’t trying to impose his “Western ideals.” Dog meat does have a centuries-long history in the diets of South Korea and other countries of East Asia diets, according to National Geographic. As a result, farms like this exist throughout South Korea, and the Animal Welfare Institute reports two million dogs are killed annually for their meat.
Following Kenworthy’s Instagram post, journalist Joon Lee raised concern on Twitter about a “dying stereotype” of Koreans eating dogs and noted that chickens are raised and killed in far greater numbers:
As Lee noted, younger generations are, in fact, adopting the “dogs are friends, not food” view. As a result the popularity of canine cuisine is dropping. Nevertheless, the conversation has sparked a heated debate about humane treatment of all kinds of animals raised for meat.
The dogs freed from this farm will be up for adoption after they make the long journey from South Korea. The details of how and where you can adopt them are not available yet. In the meantime, you can donate to Humane Society International directly to help the organization continue fighting the dog meat industry.
In his post, Kenworthy shared that he and his partner already claimed one of the pups and named him Beemo. So he is leaving Pyeongchang with at least one furry souvenir — after Beemo gets his vaccinations, that is! — even though the skier didn’t win a medal.
Kenworthy may not have won gold this time around, but he proved he has a heart of gold when it comes to animals.