Marc Ching, The Watchdog

“INTERVIEW CONDUCTED: SUMMER 2016”

He has travelled to some of the most gruesome slaughterhouses and has witnessed abhorrent torture techniques against dogs. His goal: to put an end to the torture of dogs. He is Marc Ching, founder of the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation.

At a small and sordid community slaughterhouse in Chamkar Nonong, Cambodia, a dog is about to be strung up by its neck. A topless boy wraps a noose around the animal while his counterpart readies the other end of the rope with acute intensity, unfazed by the act they’re about to carry out.

The dog is swiftly suspended and emits a shriek. While it dangles, another child joins in and proceeds to flog the defenseless creature.

For Marc Ching, founder of the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation (AHWF), a non-profit organization based in Greater Los Angeles, this incident was considered “G-rated.” He would know. Not only was he present, but he’s been to Asia seven times in the past year and visited numerous slaughterhouses throughout the continent in an attempt to end the torture of dogs that occurs before they’re slaughtered and sold for meat.

“I see live burnings. [In some parts] it’s a typical way for them to die,” says Ching. “They’re hung and burned alive. The most cruel thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Torturing and slaughtering dogs is not exclusive to one region of Asia. Numerous Asian countries are active in the dog meat industry — China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and South Korea among them. According to Humane Society International, approximately 30 million dogs are slaughtered for meat in Asia annually. In Asian cultures, the consumption of dogs can be traced back hundreds of years. However, the justification and methods of slaughtering have become distorted.

Based on his research and investigations, Ching has found that some slaughterers (mistakenly) believe that tortured dogs produce tastier meat and can provide health benefits due to the adrenaline that the animal releases while being beaten.

“I don’t know if all of them subscribe to that theory,” Ching says. “I can only tell you what I’ve seen and heard from different people. Not all slaughterhouses torture, but all slaughterhouses are cruel.”

Ching, a vegan, recently returned from what he called “Trip Number Seven,” during which he spent 15 days visiting slaughterhouses in Asian countries and documenting the profligate torture. He did this in the hope of generating public outcry and prompting Asian governments to create better animal protection laws.

“The trips are always very hard,” he says. “It’s hard having to live through that — to see what they do to the animals.”

Ching and his foundation not only note the heinous abuses, they actually engage in rescue missions. Since he started his trips to Asia in September of 2015, he and his organization have rescued about 800 dogs from slaughterhouses. Ching goes undercover as a wealthy American businessman who imports dog meat to the U.S. He requests that the owner of the slaughterhouse give him the live dogs so that he can “try their product” — but surreptitiously transports them safely to America.

“In the dog meat trade, these dogs are abused and tortured,” says Ching, 37. “That’s why we’re there. We’re not there to tell another society or culture what to eat. We’re there because they’re torturing these animals.”

His most recent trip to Asia can be considered a personal victory, as he was able to temporarily shut down six slaughterhouses in Yulin, China. While the slaughterhouses were nonoperational, Ching swooped in and rescued the dogs occupying those places.

Ching’s is a dangerous endeavour. Back in May, he came close to death on four occasions throughout his trips to Asia, being beaten, robbed, shot at and even held at machete blade. But for Ching, a stoic personality, it’s not the physical abuse he endures on these rescue missions that eats away at him. It’s the dogs that he couldn’t save.

“At times when I sit alone at night, I find the lives I could not save and feel them bleed through my skin,” he says. “It’s in these moments I become desperate, feeling what I do and who I am — that it is never enough.”

One of the most difficult experiences of his project so far happened in late 2015, in South Korea. Ching entered a place where dogs were nail-gunned to a wall, and it shocked him to the point where he needed to leave. It’s one of the many waking nightmares he’s lived through, and each one is etched deep enough into his subconscious that, he says, he’ll never be able to forget them.

“There is no centering. There is no getting back to who you used to be. I assume I will remain a lost or destroyed person,” says Ching. “Can I be destroyed, but still be loved? Of course. Can I be destroyed and still have hope? Of course. How I reclaim my own life, I couldn’t tell you — because I haven’t yet. The only thing I can say is, I’m trying to be okay, and I’m not.”

But, in saving the animals and fostering relationships with them through the AHWF, Ching still lives with some semblance of satisfaction and peace of mind.

“The biggest gift that I get from what I do is the end result — to know where they came from, what they’ve been through and to see what they’ve turned into,” he says. “Your whole life changes. That’s the beauty of rescue, of second chances — that we’re able to take a soul that has been so traumatized and breathe new life into them.”


BY THE NUMBERS

30 MILLION The amount of dogs that are killed across Asia every year (according to Humane Society International)
10 MILLION The amount of dogs killed, annually, in China alone, (according to Humane Society International)
10,000 The estimated number of dogs that are tortured, killed and eaten each year at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in Yulin, China
2,500+ (approximately) The amount of dogs (and other animals) Marc Ching and the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation have rescued from slaughterhouses in Asia, to date

270 (approximately) The number of dogs the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation have successfully transported to the U.S., Canada, Germany and the U.K.
14 The number of rescue trips Marc Ching has taken to Asia
$600,000+ The estimated amount that Marc Ching has spent on his trips to Asia (between travel, drivers, translators and all the preparations that goes into planning each trip)
10 The number of regular dedicated volunteers at the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation
30 The number of other volunteers at the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation


HOW TO GET INVOLVED

1. Make a donation to the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation
2. Like the AHWF on Facebook, follow them on Instagram and join the conversation to help end the mistreatment and abuse of dogs in Asia

www.animalhopeandwellness.org

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Daniel Calabretta

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