An American Olympic skier has sparked accusations of cultural colonialism and Western double standards after rescuing a puppy from a South Korean dog meat farm during the Pyeongchang Games.
Gus Kenworthy, one of America’s most famous winter athletes, posted pictures of his new pet, Beemo, on social media, along with the caption “Dogs are friends. Not Food”, to highlight what he described as the “disturbing conditions” faced by millions of Korean dogs being raised for the dinner table.
“There is an argument to be made that eating dogs is a part of Korean culture. And, while I don’t personally agree with it, I do agree that it’s not my place to impose western ideals,” he said in an Instagram post.
“The way these animals are being treated, however, is completely inhumane and culture should never be a scapegoat for cruelty.”
But while his post chalked up close to 200,000 likes, others criticised his campaign for being one-sided in comparison to the many other 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, @GOATnetsova.
US-based journalist, Joon Lee, pointed out that most Koreans did not eat dogs, and were against the practice.
Mr Kenworthy adopted his dog from a compound in Siheung, near the capital, Seoul, which is in the process of being closed down by the Humane Society International.
HSI estimates there are 17,000 dog meat farms in Korea, in an industry annually providing an estimated two million dogs for slaughter.
The practice is thousands of years old and has been fuelled by a belief that dog meat aids virility, although younger Koreans are generally opposed to it, and abuses have increased pressure on the government to take action.
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.
Meanwhile, Mr Kenworthy justified his campaign as an easier problem to tackle than animal abuse in general. “I’m sorry if it seemed like I was judging Korean ppl. I’m not. I just wanna help end the dog abuse!” he explained on Twitter.