With a trusted interpreter by his side, Marc Ching steels himself as they enter another slaughterhouse in China. He’s posing as an American dog meat buyer, interested in large quantities of dogs he wants to kill himself. Although he’s now taken eight trips to various dog meat eating countries in Asia, the sight that assaults his senses when he enters, never ceases to terrify.
To save a precious few of these dogs from the meat trade, he asks for a sample. The slaughterhouse manager hands a few over for Ching to take away. Those, if they’re not already too far gone from the brutal torture inflicted upon them, are the lucky ones. They’ll get a second chance at life.
It’s heartbreaking to see what happens to these dogs, and it gives me pause to write about it. No one wants to read about these extreme cruelties. No one wants to see the vile pictures. But, Marc Ching is a hero. He would hate that I call him that. He sees himself in much simpler terms as someone who just loves and wants to rescue dogs treated cruelly; to give voice to these voiceless. He’s broken emotionally from all he’s seen. He’s been thrust into the spotlight, he’s marched into Congress to bring to light what he’s seen, but he’s been living in darkness.
30 million dogs are brutally slaughtered each year in Asia. The only way to stop it is to keep exposing it to the world that cares about animals, how they’re treated and what happens to them. This is why I’m writing this post.
So, please read this and learn the truth. I’m leaving out the most gruesome of the pictures Marc sent me. I cry as I write this and each time I see Marc’s posts. I’m not a masochist, but I want my eyes to be open and I want to help. This is one way I can do that, by learning and then writing about it. You can help by knowing the truth, spreading the word and supporting House Resolution 752, sponsored by Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, to end the Yulin Festival and the dog meat trade in general in China. Please share about this and learn more at the end of this post.
Who is Marc Ching?
Marc is a soft-spoken, kind man who loves animals. He’s a holistic nutritionist by trade, who began his career consulting for people and now, predominantly, works with animals. His LA-based wellness center is called The PetStaurant. “I run 24-hour free consults and treatment plans for dogs and cats to help them stay healthy, but also to manage diseases and, in some cases, cure ailments,” Ching explained. The space is filled, floor to ceiling, with herbal and homeopathic remedies and holistic food and treat brands.
Ching realized in 2011 that he could use his knowledge to help severely abused dogs in and around LA, and out of that, grew The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, a non-profit that sees its share of gruesome cases. “These are, basically, dogs who wouldn’t survive without us,” Marc describes. “We get dogs who’ve been badly beaten, who’ve had their mouths stapled shut; terrible cruelties.”
But 18 months ago, something he saw on social media changed his life. “I saw pictures of dogs from the Yulin Festival, and couldn’t believe something like this really existed,” Ching explained. “I thought at first that it was fabricated by the media. So, having never been out of the country, I got a visa, took my backpack and got on a plane to China to see for myself if it was as bad as it sounded. It was worse.”
And so began a year-long descent into darkness; eight trips to Asia, undercover operations into slaughterhouses and dog farms and a rescue mission so intense and dangerous, he has many times put his own life in danger. What Marc has seen is unspeakable, but he attempts to communicate the horror and its effect on the soul in his Instagram and Facebook postings. That’s how I learned about him and his work. I met him on a recent trip to L.A. and I interviewed him for the blog and radio show.
Where does the dog meat trade exist & how prevalent is it?
Many of us have seen the disturbing pictures of dogs packed into wire cages like sardines in a can; those uncomprehending eyes searching for some clue as to what is happening to them. And, while most of the younger generation eschew dog meat and the market is declining, there are still enough that partake, and millions of dogs are rounded up, tortured and killed each year.
China, Thailand, South Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos; there are several countries exacting sadistic torture on dogs, tied to a belief that the more terrified and in pain the animal is, the more adrenaline is released, the tenderer the meat and the greater the health benefits.
During annual events like the Yulin Festival, which takes place each June in the Guangxi province in China, no dog is spared. Ten thousand dogs, some pets still wearing their collars when they arrive at the slaughterhouse, are stolen out of backyards and strays are grabbed by the necks and thrown into large trucks. When they arrive at the slaughterhouse, they are tortured – dismembered, burned alive, electrocuted, crucified and nail gunned into walls, where they are kept alive to endure intolerable pain for sometimes up to 40 hours.
Going to Washington, D.C.
While the Chinese government, as well as some of the other countries involved, do have laws prohibiting the stealing of private property, of which dogs fall under the category, sadly, those laws are not enforced and the government either denies what’s taking place, turns a blind eye or both.
Because several countries participate in this extraordinarily cruelty and the objective is to, if not end the practice of eating dogs altogether, certainly to end the torture of them, Marc and his right hand person, Valerie Iannoello, have reached out to the U.S. government and the entertainment industry to garner support in pressuring these countries to change. With all of the footage Marc shot while going undercover in Asia, he has all of the ammunition he needs to show exactly what is taking place.
And, that’s exactly what he did, albeit with trepidation, when he stood before Congress on September 14th of this year, to lay bare what he’s witnessed. Ching, Iannoello, on behalf of Animal Health and Wellness, Lisa Vanderpump and Dr. John Sessa on behalf of the Vanderpump Dog Foundation, and a small group of other activist organizations doing work in Asia to bring an end to the dog meat trade gathered in support of Representative Alcee Hastings Proposition 752 to end the Yulin Festival and the dog meat trade in China.
When Marc’s video played, you could hear people in the audience gasping and crying out. Marc cried, as he often does when speaking about what he’s seen. These are things no human being should ever have to see and no living being should ever have to endure.
“When I first started this, it was all about single animal rescue; to save an animal from the horrible situation it was in,” Marc explained. “But really, saving individual animals, while it is satisfying and helps that animal, it doesn’t do much to end the bigger picture torture. As I starting going undercover, my feelings changed. Now, we’ve focusing on the government and I go undercover to document, to show the government what is happening so they can stop this thing. I say, ‘We’re human beings, we’re better than this.'”
Inciting action on behalf of governments, doing what they can to change the culture and growing this movement will elicit more long term change. Marc has amassed over 120,000 Instagram followers and 125,000 Facebook fans who champion what he’s doing, follow his journey and share his message.
Hollywood comes out to support
The entertainment industry rallied around the cause and, in less than a week prior to Yulin last June, they came together to make this video urging the dog meat trade to stop. It’s altruistic and, hopefully, the governments in those countries will take notice. But, it’s also business to them, so it’s about finding them another way to make a living that doesn’t involve cruelty. Check this out:
Hope for the future and survivor stories
With all of the assault on the senses pain surrounding this issue, there is hope, too. More and more people are now aware of this issue. There is a growing movement here and abroad to end this cruelty. Many Asian youth are embarrassed by what some of their elders and fellow countrymen are doing. People are speaking out. And, organizations like Humane Society International (HSI) and outspoken celebrities, like Ricky Gervais and “Real Housewife” Lisa Vanderpump have made significant noise to help spread the word. You can add your voice to the movement.
Marc has shared his stories and footage of dog farms he’s bulldozed, after convincing the owner to get into another business, one Marc helps fund himself. One such dog farm owner is now opening a vegan noodle shop. How amazing is that. Marc has said that some of these people are relieved to end what they’ve been doing; that they have a hard time living with the pain and cruelty they inflict. But, unfortunately, not all feel that way. For some, it’s a cultural insensitivity, where he’s see children as young as six years old, torturing a dog in the street, with adults laughing in the background. The changing of a culture takes time, and it usually begins with young people, old enough to have their own ideas and beliefs and young enough not to be tainted by those of their parents. That is happening. Hear more from Marc on these experiences in my radio interview; link below.
There are dogs who have been saved. Several organizations, and more all the while, are pulling dogs from the meat trade. Marc rescued over 1,000 dogs after Yulin last June. To give those who survive the chance at a good life is priceless. And, getting them out and to safety is no small feat.
Ching had to learn fast and it was a mighty dangerous process. On that first trip back in September, 2015, “…it was a scouting mission in Beijing, China, to find out if I could even do what I’m doing now,” Ching explained. “I tried to go to this slaughterhouse and I actually was held hostage. So, it didn’t go well.” He still saved 57 dogs that trip.
He created relationships with guides, interpreters, local rescue organizations who built shelters and took in dogs, veterinarians who would see these critical cases, many of whom either never make it to the vet or die once there. He had to find help placing most of these animals in good homes, either with U.S. or Canadian expats or locals who love their dogs like we do. And, he had to arrange transport for some, all the way to Los Angeles, where he and his small team of trained volunteers, rehabilitate them and then find loving homes. Some of these dogs need prosthetics; their feet, viewed as a delicacy, have been cut off with a machete. Some are so emotionally disturbed that they never fully heal.
Marc has done most of this out of his own pocket. The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization and, in order to continue do this work, will need funds to be sustainable. If you love animals, know that any monies you donate will go to such an amazing cause.
What follows are some of the dogs who’ve recently arrived in L.A. from Asia for a second chance at life. Those available for adoption below and others who are available are at the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation. The link for each dog takes you to the Adoption Page of all dogs available at The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation.
Marc said that Glory, mouth wired shut, feet bound, beaten and bleeding, called out for him. He saved her and she’s in L.A., and ready for a forever home. For more information on Glory.
Honey was rescued from a dog farm in Korea, heading for slaughter. She is still very traumatized and hasn’t learned to trust humans yet. She landed in Los Angeles and is up for adoption. For more info on Honey.
Victim Adopt Program
With those dogs who are so emotionally shattered from what they’ve experienced, Marc had a brilliant idea. He created this amazing arm of his organization that has brought strength and joy to some of these extreme cases. His Victim Adopt Program pairs severely abused dogs with people who’ve experienced extreme trauma. The dogs and humans help each other heal. On his site, a victim of assault tells, in her own eloquent words, what Marc’s program has meant to her and in her life:
“I was assaulted, thrown to the ground, robbed at gun point, and after they took everything from me – one of them came back and lifted the barrel of a gun to my face. Bam. Bam. Bam. The sound of the trigger. The sound of death coming for me, everyday I live in fear because I do not know how to face both my past and the world. I do not know how to move forward.
“In the end, the gun turned out to discharge BB pellets. But at point blank range, the wounds left on my face have damaged my skin permanently. Every time I look at myself I see that terror. Every time I look at the scars left upon my face, I relive that moment. That instant in where I was trapped someplace. That instance in where my soul had been severed from me….
“Marc brought Dot to see me. A dog who is both a victim of abuse and someone who still has not let go. Marc told me that dogs who suffer the same thing, that they do not forget. That they travel through life with these eternal wounds cut open. That they too are broken…
“When my hand touched her body, all the hate within me, all the fear, all that mental anguish and suffering that I had to endure – I cried tears that I had been too afraid to cry. I cried poems that I had written and stories I could not speak…I am not a victim. I am an Animal Hope and Wellness miracle. I am the truth and proof behind the fact that dogs can rescue humans. Today – life spared me…
“When he left, I knew a part of my suffering helped to heal something broken within him. He left behind the story of a dog who came to save me. When he left…he took my misery.”
Marc’s program has helped between 40 – 50 people and animals, thusfar.
Marc often talks of his children, his son, Brendon, and his daughter, Krysten. They are who he is doing this for, for whom he wants there to be a better world. Their purity and innocence, very much like the dogs he saves, is what he wants so desperately to preserve. In one Instagram post on Brendon’s birthday, Marc wrote: “You are everything to me. My legacy. My blood. Why I am who I am. Why I still believe in humanity. You know how to heal me.”
There is so much work to do, and Marc and Valerie are already very busy preparing for Yulin 2017. “Everything, including Yulin, is an evolution,” Ching said. “To have a festival where you celebrate the torture of an animal; how ludicrous, how could this exist? This will come to an end, one day. But, to promote change, to push it, we have to change. Next year, we have to be better than we were this year. ”
Toward that end, they are working on a massive microchipping program, the goal of which is to chip 100,000 dogs, so they can be identified with scanners as having owners and, therefore, be deemed private property. It is illegal in China to steal someone’s private property.
They are working on border patrol and city entry check points where dogs can be scanned. And, they are marshaling forces to have a large enough team to make even more of a difference at Yulin next year.
Could I do what Marc Ching does? No. I don’t have the where with all to withstand seeing what he sees. He would probably say he doesn’t either, but he knows what he knows, and can’t turn away now. But, I’m so grateful Marc is doing this, and I see the price he’s paying for it; his entire life and family turned upside down with the grief he experiences every day. Marc deserves to be heard. Each of those dogs who’ve violently lost their lives deserve to be heard.
Like with our own babies, human and animal, we are their voice.
Are you outraged? How can you help?
Learn more about Marc and his mission in his own, very powerful words in my radio interview.
For more information on House Resolution 752
For a more in depth look into the dog meat trade, Pet Lovers Companion has a very comprehensive article, courtesy of Animal Asia.
For more info on Animal Health and Wellness, including the Victim Adopt Program and The PetStaurant.
To follow The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation on Facebook.
To follow The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation on Instagram.
All photographs, unless otherwise indicated, are credited to Marc Ching.