To Americans, dogs are cherished pets and valued members of the family but to other countries, that is not always the case. In places around the world such as Mexico, China, Indonesia, Korea, and the Philippines, it is common to eat dogs. The meat is so popular that the city of Yulin, China hosts an annual Dog Meat Festival where an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 dogs are killed, cooked, and served to the public. And to make this more heartbreaking, people that run the canine slaughterhouses often steal people’s pets to serve at the festival.
Protestors from around the world have risen up to try and prevent this terrible yearly event from happening, but no concrete laws have been put in place to end the event. That, however, isn’t stopping one Southern California man from taking a stance against the dog meat trade.
Thirty-seven-year-old Marc Ching has been an animal lover for as long as he can remember. He resides in Los Angeles where he runs The PetStaurant, a local business that makes organic dog food and cat food. In addition, Ching, a 4th generation Japanese herbalist, macrobiologist, and holistic nutritionist, provides hospice care to hundreds of area pet owners. In addition to his company, Ching founded and runs the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on rescuing abused dogs from the Asian meat trade. “I use my skillset in my practice to rehab these dogs and get them back to where they are normal and they can find great homes,” explains Ching.
His international dog rescue efforts all started last September when Ching heard about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. “I started seeing pictures about Yulin. To me, that is the most insane thing on earth,” he reveals. “You have a festival that celebrates the cruelty and abuse of an animal, which is just absurd!” The animal enthusiast booked a trip to China to experience the horrors of the festival first hand. And from there, his rescue efforts took off. He has since made eight trips overseas to different areas in China, Southern Mongolia, South Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, all in the hopes of putting an end to the practice of killing dogs for meat.
Ching’s mission is to convince local governments to stop the practice of serving dog meat. To foster his efforts, he travels overseas and documents the cruelty that dogs in slaughterhouses are undergoing. “I plan everything out ahead of time. I get guides; I pay people to find me intel,” he reveals. Once he’s made his arrangements, Ching visits slaughterhouses under the pretense that he is a dog meat buyer. Once inside, he whips out his iPhone and records footage of the businesses in action. He also asks the owners if he can sample the meat, and rescues a handful of soon-to-be-slaughtered dogs in the process.
The work is risky. “I’ve been shot at, hospitalized, beaten up, it’s crazy,” says Ching of his experiences overseas. “I was held hostage once because I couldn’t speak Chinese. This was on my first trip. Second trip I was attacked with a machete because I was trying to take pictures. I had a Go Pro on me,” he explains. But none of this has deterred Ching from his rescue efforts.
On his most recent trip to Yulin, Ching infiltrated six slaughterhouses ahead of the Dog Meat Festival and temporarily shut them down. “I went to Yulin and I said, “My name is Marc. The festival is coming up. What kind of deal would we have to do to temporary close these things down?” he explains. “A lot of them said, ‘We make $300 a day in American dollars’ so I said, ‘I’ll pay that to temporarily close it.’”
By doing this, Ching ended up rescuing 1,000 dogs in the process. “What happened is we went down there, temporarily closed down slaughterhouses, and there were so many dogs that couldn’t leave. So we ended up rescuing them,” he explains. “It was actually pretty stressful and a lot of work but in the end, we made it work.”
To house the dogs, Ching teamed up with local groups and built makeshift shelters in Yulin. From there, the dogs were nursed back to health, vaccinated, and prepped to travel to America and Canada. They are eventually listed on the Animal Hope and Wellness website, where people can view them and adopt them.
Ching, who owns four dogs of his own, including a few that he’s rehabbed from the meat trade in Asia, has been an animal advocate for as long as he can remember. “I don’t think anybody ever says, ‘I’m going to be a dog rescuer. I think it just happens. This is who I am now,’” he reveals. And aside from finding homes for his 1,000 rescued Yulin dogs, he is in the process of planning trip 9 and 10 overseas. “My goals are changing now. Instead of undercover work, I’m focusing more on the government,” he explains. “I’m trying to make a dog meat free zone in Korea and Cambodia. That’s next up on the agenda.”
While Ching understands that America continues to battle animal cruelty and abuse every single day, he says that the dogs overseas deserve an advocate who will stand up for their rights. “No dog in America has ever suffered what these dogs go through,” he says. “You can never imagine what they go through there. America is a country about hope and second chances, so that is what we are trying to do.”
Ching hopes the stories of the amazing adopted pets that have survived the horrors of the meat trade and the Yulin festival will continue to serve as a means for educating the public and invoking worldwide change. “The message spreads and these people start to learn about what is going on out there,” says Ching. “People find out, tell other people, and soon the whole world knows…and that is what brings about change.”
All images courtesy Marc Ching
Nicole Pajer is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, energetic Doberman, and rat terrier.