Dogs that were destined to be killed for human consumption in South Korea are being imported into the United States to be put up for adoption as pets, in the first such dog rescue of its kind.

Twenty-three dogs are making the long flight from Seoul this week and will undergo health checks at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria in Virginia. They will then be distributed among five other shelters in the Mid-Atlantic states for adoption.

dog meat korea
A dog called Snowball, rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea, settles into the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria shelter in Virginia, USA. Twenty-three dogs destined to be killed for human consumption in South Korea are being imported into the United States this week to be put up for adoption as pets, in the first such dog rescue of its kindRobert MacPherson/AFP/Getty Images

The Washington-based Humane Society International (HSI) located the dogs at a farm in Ilsan, northwest of Seoul, where they were being bred specifically for human consumption. The farmer agreed to give up the dogs and accept an offer of compensation and grow blueberries instead, HSI director of companion animals Kelly O'Meara told AFP.

HSI has been working with local groups in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to raise public awareness of the dog meat trade. "But South Korea is unusual because it actually farms dogs to supply demand," O'Meara said, while other countries target feral dogs as food.

dog meat korea
A dog rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea arrives at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria shelterRobert MacPherson/AFP/Getty Images
dog meat korea
A dog rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea arrives at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria shelterRobert MacPherson/AFP/Getty Images
dog meat korea
Rescued dogs await adoption at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria shelterRobert MacPherson/AFP/Getty Images
dog meat korea
Robert MacPherson/AFP/Getty Images

Every year, between 1.2 million and two million dogs are consumed in South Korea, O'Meara said, supplied by farms that number "at least in the hundreds".