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Downton Abbey star Lesley Nicol: grassroots work in China will end dog meat trade

09 June 2017

TV star Lesley Nicol spoke out on China’s dog meat industry while joining a team of canine therapy animals at a Hong Kong school.

Students at a Hong Kong school were surprised to see TV star Lesley Nicol – best known as Mrs Patmore in Downton Abbey – drop by their classrooms with a team of four-legged animal ambassadors.

The trip was part of Animals Asia’s long-running Professor Paws programme, which aims to encourage responsible companion animal ownership, compassion for all animals and ultimately reduce demand for dog meat.

Lesley and five furry therapists spent an hour with students at Hong Kong International School in May during their student-led mental health awareness week.

Animals Asia’s Ambassador and USA Board member Lesley Nicol said:

"The dog meat industry will end and this is the kind of work that will end it. It’s not about the West telling China how to behave – it’s about working with local animal lovers and also encouraging people to think again about dogs and cats and how they are treated.

“I've long been an admirer of the Professor Paws programme and the way it is changing long-held societal beliefs about dogs in Hong Kong PRC and mainland China.

“To see a session in person was amazing. I am full of admiration for the work these dogs do to change perceptions and prove to the new generation that dogs are friends, not food. This kind of grass roots awareness-raising and educational work is what will change people’s behaviour on the ground in China for generations to come.

“It’s about how dogs are perceived and their value as ‘friends not food’ – I know that Professor Paws is just part of Animals Asia grassroots work to improve the lives of dogs and cats in China. Yes, it has the direct aim of ending the dog meat industry but it’s also so much wider. It’s about making China a better place for cats and dogs in general.”

Over 50 students came to meet the dogs, many of whom had little previous experience with canines.

Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE, who also joined the visit, said:

"The effect these beautiful dogs had on the students was just magical. Everyone was drawn to them and visibly happier and more relaxed in their presence. Even those who started the session with trepidation came to realise these dogs were friends capable of providing unconditional love – and many ended up rolling on the floor with them!

“This is part of a widespread holistic approach in China and Hong Kong PRC which includes working with animal loving organisations across the country to rescue animals, build shelters and promote responsible guardianship.”

Since 2004, Animals Asia’s Professor Paws programme has been bringing registered therapy dogs to Chinese schools to help children to overcome their fear of dogs, learn safety around dogs, responsible pet care and compassion for all animals.

In addition to Hong Kong, Professor Paws also visits schools in the mainland Chinese cities of Chengdu, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, where dog meat eating is still legal.

In 2016, More than 30 Professor Paws dogs helped teach over 7,000 students in Hong Kong about animal welfare while showering youngsters with puppy love.

Animals Asia provides funding and training to around 100 animal welfare groups in China that rescue dogs and cats and undertake other welfare initiatives that directly help companion animals. Animals Asia also runs conferences for the leaders of these groups, allowing problems and solutions to be debated and discussed.

Read Jill Robinson's account of Lesley Nicol's visit on her personal blog.