Urge South Korea to end dog meat trade, celebrities tell Boris Johnson
Dame Judi Dench is among the celebrities urging Boris Johnson to "vigorously encourage" South Korea to end its "cruel" dog meat trade.
The renowned actress is joined by Downton Abbey star Peter Egan, author Jilly Cooper and Lucy Watson, of Made In Chelsea fame, in calling on the Foreign Secretary to press for reforms.
They are among the signatories of a letter to Mr Johnson, coordinated by Humane Society International (HSI), which 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.
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.
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.
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.
This petition claims the dog meat trade "remains the same, if not worse" than 30 years ago as South Korea prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
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 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."
Conservative MP Oliver Dowden, a member of the Petitions Committee, will introduce Monday's debate in Parliament. It is scheduled to last three hours in Westminster Hall.
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."