American Travels to Dog Meat Festival in China to Rescue More Than 1,000 Canines
Every year, a small city in China faces widespread criticism for its Dog Meat Festival, but a California man is taking it upon himself to flip the script on what is widely viewed as a cruel practice.
Animal activist Marc Ching of Sherman Oaks decided go to the city of Yulin himself to shut down slaughterhouses and rescue each dog from dinner plates, one by one.
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival, also known as the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, has been celebrated annually in the Guangxi province in southern China since its conception in 2009.
The practice is widely criticized both internationally and within China, but Chiang, who founded the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation in California, wanted to do more than just protest and sign petitions. He decided to dedicate the past few weeks to making tangible change on the ground.
"Every year, everybody protests but it does nothing. I attack their supply chains. I go in and I shut these slaughterhouses down," Ching explained to InsideEdition.com.
He said so far, he's rescued at least 1,000 dogs from slaughterhouses in the area, and believed the festival, which started on Tuesday, may have already been impacted by his and other rescuers attempts.
"Usually at the dog market, there are a lot of vendors. A lot of those places weren't open because they didn't even have dogs," he said. Ching asked his translator pretend to be a buyer, and ask vendors why they weren't open.
They responded, "for some reason, there's a shortage of dogs."
Before he arrived in China on Sunday, he told InsideEdition.com he had set up meetings with 11 slaughterhouses, with the purpose of buying them out, and shutting them down.
"I tell them all I want to do is show the world that change is possible in this environment," he explained.
At the slaughterhouses, he said he has witnessed dogs nailed to walls, burned alive, and even saw a premature puppy who fell out of his dead mother's uterus as she was being gutted.
He added that another dog continued to bark, even as he was burnt to charcoal.
Even though the amount of money Ching was willing to compensate for the operation was much lower than if they were to sell the entire supply, he convinced them that the money is good, considering owners could save on production costs and retire their business.
On this trip, he was able to eventually come to an agreement with six of the slaughterhouses, who handed over their keys and abandonned the premises with the dogs inside.
Ching then returned with a team of volunteers who had reached out to him on Facebook, interested in joining his mission.
Valerie Ianniello, who makes up the other half of The Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation, told InsideEdition.com that Ching was quickly joined by about 15 volunteers who purposely made the trip from the U.K. the U.S., Hong Kong, and other places in China. They were even joined by a veterinarian from Vietnam.
Ching posted a video to The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation during one of their larger rescues, which shows multiple volunteers pulling hundreds of frantic and scared dogs out of the slaughterhouse.
"Just this rescue alone, there were 200 meat cages. We're averaging each case has five dogs," he said, guessing they had probably rescued at least 1,000 dogs in this operation alone. "We probably did the largest rescue in history."
They sent the dogs to a safehouse volunteers built in days, but Ching said they had only anticipated rescuing 100 dogs.
Ching then reached out to local organizations, including Tree of Life, a local organization founded by monks who were able to take in and rehabilitate some of the dogs.
The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation was also able to set up a secondary safehouse, and were able to find other local rescues for the remaining dogs.
After a 45-day quarantine period, Ianniello said they are prepared to fly 200 of the rescue dogs back to California.
Despite the incredible rescue, Ching said he wished he would have been able to reach more slaughterhouses.
One of the reason Ching said he was unable to shut down some of the dog meat operations was that they couldn't agree on a deal. He said some of them wanted more money than he was able to offer, or the owners wanted to sell the facility, but keep the dogs.
"If I leave, and you have those dogs, how do I know you're not going to kill them?" He thought. "I was really against that."
Another reason, he said, was because local police were constantly following them and trying to disrupt their efforts.
Ching explained that on prevoius legs of this trip, he was detained at the airport multiple times and questioned. Upon arriving in China, he said his entry into the country was relatively smooth.
That night, he told Ianniello who remained in California, 14 police officers showed up at his hotel room to question him.
Ching said the following day officers followed him and his translator to the slaughterhouse. During the meeting, police knocked on the door and allegedly threatened the owner against making a deal with Ching.
By the next visit, they knew to take more complicated routes to their meetings with slaughterhouse owners, including arriving separately or taking detours through malls.
"[My translator] thinks the reason why [officers are following us around] is not because the government wants to kill dogs, he says because they don't want you to see what it's like here," Ching explained.
Ching explained that in previous trips, he had arrived to slaughterhouses undercover. He posed as a rich American business man interested in buying dog meat for the American market.
He would first say he noticed a cooked dog hanging and ask for a sample piece. Ching, who is a vegan, would then refuse that, and insist he would rather kill the dog himself, and have it fresh. By this point, owners often sent Ching away with three dogs that were still alive.
Through this method, Ching said he's unable to save as many dogs as he would if he bought the entire slaughterhouse.
Other times, he would outright buy a couple dogs, for which he's paid anywhere between $10 and $400 per dog.
This excursion, the first time he had made it to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, marks his seventh trip since he began traveling in September of last year. Other than China, they focus their efforts on Laos, Cambodia, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam, among others.
Though The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation focuses on local animal abuse cases, Ching said the Yulin Dog Meat Festival quickly became a cause he held near to his heart.
"Yulin is a celebration of dogs that they eat," Ching explained, "but really, it's a celebration of death and abuse. I don't see a celebration."
He explained that the common belief is if you torture the dog, it releases adrenaline which makes its meat better tasting, and more nutritious.
According to Ianniello, Ching has been paying for most of these trips with his own money.
"We're a tiny little rescue," she said. The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation only consists of herself and Ching, who do not profit from their efforts.
Since Ching began posting his experience rescuing dogs from slaughterhouses on Facebook, Ianniello said they have began receiving many more donations, including those that paid for Ching's trip to Yulin, with stops at slaughterhouses in Indonesia and Laos, also fully funded by donations.
To contribute to their cause, visit www.animalhopeandwellness.org/donate/