An animal protection group freed 149 dogs from meat farms in South Korea, before they were killed and eaten.

The dogs, including 15 newborn puppies, were destined to be turned into spicy soup in South Korea.

The rescue operation came ahead of the country’s annual Bok Nal dog meat festival, when more than a million of the animals are killed and eaten.

Many of the animals found on the farm in rural Yesan, in western South Korea, were injured, had diseases, or were suffering from pressure sores.

Humane Society International (HSI) said it freed the dogs after being contacted by the farm’s owner, who wanted help to shut it down.

“With every dog meat farm we close, we are not only saving the lives of these poor, terrified dogs caught up in this cruel trade, but we are also presenting a successful blueprint for change that we hope the government will follow,” said Nara Kim, the charity’s dog meat campaigner for South Korea.

“Eating dog is a dying practice in Korea, especially among young people. However, the Bok Nal days of summer still lead many to eat dog meat soup in the mistaken belief that it will invigorate the blood in the sluggish heat.”

They are to be flown to animal shelters in America and found new homes. Fifteen of the animals were too small to fly and will be kept with their mothers in South Korea until they are old enough to be transported.

More than 2.5 million dogs a year are reared on thousands of dog meat farms across South Korea, according to HSI.

Opposition to the dog meat trade is growing among in the country, and newly elected President Moon Jae-in recently adopted a dog rescued from a farm.

Ms Kim said: “Some people say that dog eating is Korean culture, but you won’t find many young people who feel it’s a cultural habit we want to hold on to.

“It’s intellectually lazy to use culture as an excuse for cruelty because all cultures evolve over time and we often shed practices of the past.

“We are hopeful that things will change, and that the new Korean president will advance a new culture of compassion to animals.

“I am so happy that for these dogs the dog meat trade is over, but we have to fight on for the millions who are still suffering.”