Marc’s life story reads like the resume of a Hollywood action star ten films into a career. In three trips to Asia, the herbalist and nutritionist have been on the brink of death three times. Being shot, stabbed, beaten and held at the tip of a machete blade is all in a day’s work for Marc Ching, the founder, and CEO of the Animal Health and Wellness Foundation.
As part of his work, he travels to parts of the world where animal welfare is not of the highest priority and rescues dogs from the underground meat and fur trade.
“It’s very dangerous. I don’t recommend it […] My first trip was a scouting mission in Beijing, China, to find out if I could even do what I’m doing now.
I tried to go to this slaughterhouse and I actually got held hostage. So, it didn’t go well.”
Marc is a little on the modest side there, the trip to the slaughterhouse went very well:
“I saved 57 dogs that trip.”
“I don’t speak Chinese, I couldn’t get a translator to come with me because it’s dangerous, so I ended up going there myself.”
Marc was alerted to the slaughterhouse thanks to a local who tipped him off. As he arrived, he spotted dogs being unloaded from a truck. Marc snapped some truly heartbreaking pictures that really capture the terrible conditions these animals were living in.
The men running the facility did not, however, appreciate Marc’s quick snaps or presence at the scene.
“Before I knew it, they grabbed me and threw me to the ground. My arms were being held, so I couldn’t escape […] One of the guys kicked me so hard that I kind of went flying, which is actually how I got away.”
The Chinese dog meat market kills over 10 million dogs each year, including over ten thousand that die as part of Yulin dog meat festival, this includes dogs specifically breed to be slaughtered. Awareness of this practice has grown in recent years thanks to efforts from organizations like Marc’s as well as celebrities like Ricky Gervais.
Adam Parascandola, director of animal cruelty issues for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), said had this to say on the issue.
“There is a real divide here in Yulin between the older generation dog meat traders and the younger generation Chinese animal campaigners who want this horror to stop”
“What I’m doing is very different from what other people out there are doing, people push trucks carrying different dogs from farm to slaughterhouse off the road. That’s the typical practice.”
Marc’s approach to rescuing these animals has evolved since his early forays.
“Unfortunately, I can’t take them all. Financially, it’s exhausting, so I take the dogs who need me the most, dogs who’ve had their feet or their legs cut off.”
“Now, I have a cover, I go in as a buyer for the dog industry in the United States. Then, all the dogs that I can take, who are abused or cut up, I take to the vet. I have a system now.”
Marc saves as many dogs as he can. Under his guise of being an American buyer, he simply loads a large van with as many dogs as he can. He’s also kept up forming positive relations with concerned locals and gets the dogs to the vet where, once they’re fit and healthy, the dogs are rehomed and given a second chance at life.
“But the dogs who matter most to me, which I guess is a lot of them, the dogs I feel most connected to, I fly out.”
“I want to give them a life.”
Marc’s incredible generosity of spirit doesn’t just end with the dogs themselves. He also goes out of his way to try and connect rescued dogs with victims of rape and other types of abuse. So that both the victims can get the unconditional love that was denied to them.
“I try to adopt to people who have been through horrific crimes. Most of them are rape victims — their stories are so traumatic they have a hard time being normal again. So, I try to show them how a dog who has been through some type of abusive situation, when you’re sad or having a hard time, they love you no matter what.”
One woman (whose identity is kept secret for her safety) received one of Marc’s rescued dogs after being shot in the face after being robbed. The brutal incident left her with permanent scars and severe emotional trauma.
Thanks to the victim adoption programme she was paired up with Dot, a tiny dog who had her leg taken from her as part of the dog meat trade. Studies have shown that the presence of a dog for female survivors of abuse helped lower PTSD risk rates as well as decreased anxiety.
“So many of these China and Korea dogs are actually going to these victims, I kind of look at it like, even though we’re saving animals, were using these animals to save people.”
“I’m actually very successful with this program, When I adopt a dog to a victim of abuse, a survivor, it really changes their life.”
“When you meet them, when they hold the dog in their hand, they’re crying,” he said. “I hear their story and then I bring the dog out and tell them the history of the dog … it’s so powerful, it’s amazing.”
Marc also works to help abused dogs in the United States, such as Toby. Toby had been stamped on, kicked, and abused so badly that his lungs now contain fluid and he’d developed a cough. After some time and care in Marc’s hands, Toby is now ready to be adopted to the right home.
The sort of treatment these dogs and cats are receiving is horrific, and it’s really great to know that there’s someone like Marc out there doing something about it, no matter how small of a dent he makes it’s always going to be worth it.
So let’s hear it for Marc and his foundation! If you’d like to do more to help stop the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, you can find more information here. It would actually be pretty cool if in 2018 people stopped eating dogs and went back to regular food like haggis and kangaroo.