Made in Chelsea's Lucy Watson in campaign to end South Korean dog meat trade
Former Made In Chelsea star Lucy Watson posed outside Parliament with caged campaigners dressed as dogs as she joined calls for the Government to "vigorously encourage" South Korea to end its "cruel" dog meat trade.
The stunt comes as celebrities including Dame Judi Dench, Downton Abbey star Peter Egan, author Jilly Cooper and Watson, signed a letter urging Boris Johnson to press for reforms.
The letter, co-ordinated by Humane Society International (HSI), claims up to three million dogs a year in South Korea are "raised and killed largely to be made into a supposed 'health' soup" known as Boshintang.
Mr Johnson has come under pressure to speak out in favour of outlawing the trade ahead of a parliamentary debate on Monday, triggered by an online petition which received 102,131 signatures.
Watson, who was joined by her beloved pet dog Digby as she met campaigners, said she had been shocked by "horrific footage and images" of the dogs in South Korea and hoped the debate would make a difference.
"I have to say that the cruelty out there is immense and overwhelming and it shouldn't happen to any living being," she told the Press Association.
Estimates on the number of dogs slaughtered for food in South Korea vary, with animal welfare campaigners criticising the methods used, which are said to include electrocution and hanging.
The reality star, who announced her departure from E4 series Made in Chelsea last week, said she now had more time to "really focus on making a difference for animals" and campaign on issues close to her heart.
She added: "Since I was born I've been obsessed by animals and had a really close connection with them.
"I grew up on a working farm so I was open to animal cruelty from a young age and instantly knew it was wrong.
"And now I'm in a position that I have a large following and a platform that I can use for good, that's all I really want to do."
During the 1988 Seoul Olympics, South Korea banned dog meat by invoking a law which prohibited the sale of "foods deemed unsightly" although this was not strictly enforced after the event.
HSI executive director Claire Bass, in the letter on behalf of the celebrities and animal welfare campaigners, said support from the Government and MPs would be a "tremendous boost" to South Korean politicians who oppose the trade.
The letter, signed by celebrities including Watson, adds: "With just 18 months until the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, which will bring global media to South Korea's door, we urge the British Government's ministers and representatives overseas to reach out to their South Korean counterparts and support the growing number of Korean politicians and citizens who want to see reform.
"In recent months, draft amendments have been submitted to South Korea's Animal Protection Act that offer a real opportunity to move towards an end to the dog meat trade.
"We urge the UK Government to vigorously encourage such legislative reforms, as well as to offer insights into the successful government-orchestrated phase-out of fur farms in the UK that offers a template for reform that South Korea could follow."
Wendy Higgins, spokeswoman for HSI, said she was "optimistic" that the trade could be brought to an end as attitudes change in South Korea.
"Young people in particular feel very energised and emotional about this subject and really want their country to end the practice of dog meat farming, so I feel that we are turning a corner," she said.
"We've got a long way to go but something that would really make an impact is for the British Government to reach out to their counterparts in South Korea and offer assistance and guidance."
In response to the petition, the Foreign Office said: "The British Embassy in Seoul has raised the issue of cruelty towards animals on numerous occasions with the South Korean authorities and explained that the UK public and parliamentarians would like to see Korean regulation that would bring the practice to an end.
"We will continue to seek further opportunities to raise the issue, in particular as we approach the Winter Olympics in 2018, and will monitor developments in the practice in the Republic of Korea."
It noted that changing attitudes mean dog soup is declining in popularity, adding: "The trend is such that dog meat eating is likely to die out of its own accord, though that day could still be some years off."