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Animal rights activist accused of staging dog abuse

Marc Ching denies the allegations against him and has accused two activists of conspiring to bribe a butcher in Indonesia to say Ching paid to stage the burning of living dogs.

PAUL PRINGLE: The videos are horrifying. In one, a black dog hangs by its neck, crying and convulsing as it is blowtorched alive. In another, a white dog dangles from a wooden beam, writhing in pain and terror. The footage came from a 2016 trip to Asia by Marc Ching… a prominent leader in the local, national and international animal rights communities. Ching has told supporters that those videos and others were recorded to document the torture and slaughter of dogs at meat markets in Indonesia, Cambodia and other countries in Asia with a limited but enduring trade in butchering the animals for human food.

The gruesome images appear on social media and in an emotional public service announcement that features a roster of celebrities, including Matt Damon, Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara, and promotes a charitable foundation that Ching started. The Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation has raised millions of dollars for the purpose of rescuing dogs and cats from Asian slaughterhouses. “It shows you why this has to end,” Ching said after screening the videos at a House briefing in 2016 on Capitol Hill. As he showed the torture scenes, audience members gasped and averted their eyes. “How can you do that to an animal?” Ching asked.

But a Times investigation has found evidence that contradicts Ching’s claims about the authenticity of some of the most shocking videos and raises questions about his rescue efforts overseas. Butchers in Indonesia have told The Times that Ching paid them to hang the black dog and burn it to death — a method of killing more cruel than any they say they normally employ — so he could stage the scene for the camera… Ching, 41, denied orchestrating that scene or any other and said he never instructed butchers on how to maim or kill dogs. “If the question is if I pay people to torture dogs — no, I don’t,” Ching said…

In appeals to the public and foundation supporters, Ching has presented videos of that incident and others as candid portrayals of the day-to-day routine at the slaughterhouses he documented mostly while “undercover,” posing as a dog meat buyer. But local animal rights activists in Indonesia, Cambodia and elsewhere in Asia say they have never heard of dogs being regularly tortured or killed in some of the ways depicted by Ching… In an interview and a subsequent email to The Times, Ching said the allegations against him are motivated in part by rivalries among animal rescuers. Ching accused two activists of conspiring to bribe a butcher in Indonesia to say Ching paid to stage the burning of living dogs…

Ching’s foundation held a gala fundraiser in 2017 at the W Hotel in Hollywood, drawing the likes of No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, who told an interviewer at the event that Ching was a “superhero.” Others in attendance referred to him as an “Earth angel.” In March 2019, musician Moby and actresses Alicia Silverstone and Shannen Doherty attended a Culver City fundraiser for the foundation that was hosted by comedian Whitney Cummings. Doherty, who once sat on his charity board, told an interviewer at the event that Ching has “the greatest spirit and always the best of intentions”…

The Times’ investigation also found that Ching’s charity engaged in financial practices that nonprofit experts say are troubling. Foundation records show that more than $350,000 in cash was withdrawn from the charity in a period of 27 months and that Ching has billed the foundation for at least $59,000 in food and other products from his for-profit pet nutrition business, the Petstaurant. In emails to The Times, and through statements by the foundation’s attorneys, the organization said Ching never misused funds and has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in goods, services and cash to the charity since 2014…

Board members who oversee Ching’s foundation initially declined to meet with The Times, and the organization at one point suggested the newspaper had tried to persuade people to lie about Ching and the charity. Dr. Barbara Gitlitz, a Los Angeles oncologist who chaired the charity’s board at the time, eventually sat for an interview in January in the Wilshire Boulevard offices of the foundation’s attorneys. She said that she had no reason to doubt Ching’s accounts of the dog torture and that she questioned the credibility of the butchers who accuse him of paying them to stage abuse.

“It just goes against everything that I know about Marc and how he treats animals,” Gitlitz said.
The board said it was launching an independent investigation… There is no dispute that dogs and cats are killed for food in countries across Asia, especially outside the major cities. Local activists in those countries have long fought to end the practice, often working in league with Westerners. Foreign and U.S. activists interviewed by The Times said the methods used by butchers to round up and kill the animals — packing them into cages, drowning them, clubbing them on the head and, in some cases, hanging them — are uniformly inhumane.

They said there have been instances when animal abusers burned dogs alive or brutalized them in other ways, and images of the cruelty are posted online. And there have been many times when butchers, after striking a dog’s skull to kill it, burn the animal to de-fur it, even though it is still alive. But all of the activists, including seven who do work in Asia, said their efforts have found no evidence to support the notion that the dogs are routinely and deliberately burned or boiled alive, or tortured with beatings and mutilations on a regular basis as Ching has described. SOURCE…

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