1. ITV Report

'This isn't culture - this is animal cruelty': Olympic skier speaks out after visit to South Korean dog meat farm

US freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy visited a dog meat farm in South Korea. Credit: AP

Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy has visited a South Korean dog meat farm - describing it as "one of the saddest places I've seen".

Amid an ongoing drive by campaigners to shut down the dog meat trade in the country, the British-born US athlete went to see the conditions in which the animals were being kept.

He said he did not want to dictate to other cultures what they should and should not eat - but insisted that even animals raised for slaughter should be kept in better conditions.

These dogs are being raised for food and raised for meat, and that's in such an inhumane way that it's being done.

They are out here in the snow, they're shivering, they're barking, they just want attention. Some of them look like they haven't had food in ages. And it's just something that needs to change.

I don't think It's fair to push anyone else's beliefs. And I don't think it's fair to come and say that the way that we do something is the right way.

But also I don't think that cruelty is culture. And I don't think you can say that this is a cultural thing because this is animal cruelty.

– Gus Kenworthy, American freestyle skier

He was joined by his boyfriend Matthew Wilkas for the visit.

Kenworthy visited the farm with his boyfriend Matthew Wilkas. Credit: AP

"It's horrible - dogs clustered together in cages, some of them look a bit skinny, they have scarring on their faces, I think probably from rubbing there snouts against the cage wires," Wilkas said.

"Some of them are out loose in chains, none of them seem content. When you approach one, it might be scared of you, another one might just be desperate for some kind of attention. It's just sad."

Footage from the visit shows dogs being kept in small, cramped cages in filthy conditions.

Inside, the animals were surrounded by rusty pipes and dirty mattresses, while outside they were kept chained up with little space to move around.

Humane Society International (HSI) is now working to close the farm down.

The dogs were kept in 'cruel' conditions, Kenworthy said. Credit: AP

The charity has bought it from the owner, who told workers he never intended to sell dogs for slaughter, but felt he had no choice when his pet Jindo dogs kept having puppies.

He said he plans to open a new farm growing mushrooms and other plants.

The dogs will now be vaccinated and quarantined until mid-March, when they will most likely be flown to the USA to find loving new homes.

An estimated two million dogs are slaughtered and eaten every year in Korea, though the practice is falling in popularity - in part due to the cruelty associated with farms.

British-born Gus Kenworthy is an Olympic freestyle skier for the US. Credit: AP

A number of athletes have spoken out against the trade, including Kenworthy, who was in the country for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

He failed to medal, but used his time in the country to help the campaign - and said he is considering adopting one of the puppies he met at the farm on Friday.

He has previously starred in a public service announcement on behalf of HSI, which wants to end the dog meat trade entirely.

Four years ago, he rescued five dogs while competing in Sochi. One still lives with his mother, and two more were homed with his ex-boyfriend.