As he looked on at the warehouse containing over 1,000 dogs, Marc Ching knew he’d done something amazing. Because these dogs had all been facing a certain and gruesome death at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Now, however, they’d been given a bright new future and the chance to find their very own “fur-ever family.” And Ching had risked everything to make it happen.
Ching, who originally hails from Hawaii, is a man of many talents. He’s a Japanese herbalist, a marcobiologist, and a holistic nutritionist. And in the city of Los Angeles, Ching has managed to combine all of his nutritional and scientific knowledge with his true passion: animals.
Because the entrepreneur is the proud founder of The PetStaurant, which is a store situated in the Sherman Oaks area of L.A. The business is like a health food store for dogs – it provides super-nutritious food and tailored diet plans for every kind of pooch. But the PetStaurant isn’t Ching’s only endeavor. Because in 2011, he also established The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, a charity which rescues vulnerable animals.
To begin with, the Foundation started taking in abused and abandoned dogs from all over L.A., providing them with rehabilitation before placing them with what it calls “fur-ever families.” And writing on the charity’s website, Ching has revealed the simple motivation behind the project: “When I die, I want to die knowing that I was the best person I could possibly be.”
Ching’s charitable ambitions were given new impetus in 2015, however, when he learned about China’s Dog Meat Festival. Horrified, the dog lover flew to China to find out more, and the trip changed his life. Because after witnessing some truly inhumane travesties, Ching made it his mission to help as many dogs destined for the butcher’s slab as he could.
And so this year, Ching returned to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Region. Only this time, he took a van with him, with the aim of saving as many dogs as possible and finding them a suitable home. And if he couldn’t find a home for the pooches locally, Ching was even determined to fly them back to the U.S. to find refuge there.
The Yulin Dog Meat kicks off every year during the summer solstice in June. Many of the festival’s attendees believe dog meat helps them cope with the intense summer heat.
Consumption of dog meat in China isn’t a new culinary craze. In fact, people there have been dining on canines for more than 400 years. The Yulin Festival, however, is a recent addition to the festival calendar. And it’s more popular than you would think, too: during the 10-day event alone, it is estimated that some 15,000 dogs are killed and consumed.
In recent years, the festival has sparked international outrage. The conditions in which the dogs are kept are appalling, and the poor animals are often slaughtered by brutal methods due to the preposterous belief that dogs who have been tortured taste better. “Many [people] believe it and do participate in this horrific practice of torturing dogs before killing them,” Kelly O’Meara of the The Humane Society told BuzzFeed. “We have seen much footage to show this still exists in many countries as methods of slaughter.”
But in the last year, Ching’s mission to end the horrific trade hasn’t just taken him to China. He’s also journeyed to Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia, Cambodia, and South Korea too, and during his travels he’s been able to save over 300 dogs from the consumption trade. But it’s a dangerous game. In fact in order to even gain entry to the slaughterhouses, Ching has to pretend he’s an American businessman hoping to import dog meat into the U.S.
Ching has witnessed unbearable animal suffering on his travels, and he’s even put his life on the line for his noble mission. “I have videos of hangings, burning them alive, boiling alive, cutting their feet off while they’re still alive,” he told BuzzFeed.
And not only does Ching have to deal with the terrible things he’s seen, he’s also had to cope with being personally attacked, too. In fact the animal lover has been hospitalized, held hostage and badly beaten for his efforts. “It’s very dangerous. I don’t recommend it,” he told The Dodo.
But despite almost losing his life on a number of occasions, Ching has remained undeterred. In fact in June this year he even returned to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival for his most ambitious trip to date. On his way there, however, Ching was physically assaulted, and also detained, interrogated and even followed by state authorities. But still, he continued on his quest.
Working alongside his colleague Valarie Ianniello, Ching began negotiating with slaughterhouses in a bid to close down as many as possible. And incredibly, they managed to convince six dog meat suppliers to cease trading, saving at least 1,000 pooches in the process.
Posting the jubilant rescue scenes to The Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation’s Facebook page, Chang wrote: “We just rescued over 1,000 dogs from Yulin. A thousand breaths that would die here in the dark.”
In the emotional post, he added: “These dogs, they are brothers. They are sisters. They are fathers and mothers. They are children. They deserve a chance.”
However, although the outcome was better than their wildest dreams, Ching and Ianniello simply didn’t have the resources to re-home all the dogs through The Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation. And so the pair asked local rescuers to take some of the animals and lead them to a better life.
The dogs have now been sent to shelters in China and the U.S., where they will recuperate before being re-homed. Meanwhile, Ching returned to L.A., where he continued to campaign against the dog meat industry.
Since his trip to Yulin, however, Ching has decided to take a step back from his Foundation. Because on the charity’s Facebook page, he explained that the trips to Asia have put a strain on both his life and his health. But he added that the shelter remained committed to the dogs it had rescued, and said that the fight for animal rights would go on.
“The cause we fight for is greater then a single person. It is greater then the breath I breathe,” he wrote on Facebook. “The fight towards freedom. The fight to give to those that die in suffering. The fight to share this Earth – it will forever continue.”