After serving nearly ten years in prison for abducting and beating a man who ripped him off in a drug deal, Marc Ching reinvented himself as a Hollywood hero by using grizzly photos and videos of dogs being tortured, beaten, and burned alive in Asian meat markets to promote his animal rights charity. Now, a Los Angeles Times investigation casts doubt on the authenticity of the most gruesome images, with some butchers even accusing Ching of paying them to commit the heinous acts for his camera.
After a 2016 trip to meat markets in Indonesia, Cambodia, and elsewhere in Asia, Ching showed supporters of his Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation what he claimed to be “undercover” video of himself posing as a dog meat buyer in Indonesia. In one video, a black dog is shown being hung by the neck and blowtorched by a butcher. Ching claimed the horrific scene represented the everyday practices in slaughterhouses where dog meat is processed for human consumption.
The footage was incorporated in a PSA featuring actors Matt Damon, Joaquin Phoenix, and Rooney Mara that helped raise millions of dollars for Ching’s foundation and got him an invite to screen the video for a House briefing on Capitol Hill.
“It shows you why this has to end,” Ching told the audience. “How can you do that to an animal?”
But Marthen Wondang, an Indonesian butcher featured in the blowtorch video, tells the Times that Ching paid an inflated price for four dogs and ordered one to be burned alive.
In seven minutes of raw video, Ching’s camera does not appear to be hidden, but rather follows behind Wondang as he carries the dog through the market by a rope around its neck, hangs it, and burns it to death. Wondang can be heard asking Ching a question which translates to, “This is exactly what you want, right?”
Wondang tells the Times that Ching “was smiling and laughing throughout the process. Like he was happy.”
Ching did not answer questions about that claim, but he and lawyers for his foundation have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, especially that he paid to have any animals killed.
And while Ching claims that one butcher boasted of burning to death 50 dogs a day, Wondang and the other butchers said their usual slaughter method is to beat the dogs on the head, as burning them to death with kerosene torches would be too expensive, and more likely to result in the butchers getting bitten or scratched.
Animal rights activists in Europe and Asia back up the butchers’ claims.
Lee Fox-Smith, an author who co-founded the Campaign to End the Dog Meat Trade in Cambodia and has visited more than 200 slaughterhouses and restaurants that serve dog meat, told the Times that he began to question Ching when he reported seeing dogs boiled alive in Cambodia.
“We’ve never seen animals boiled alive, never seen animals beaten or paws cut or anything,” Fox-Smith said.
Fox-Smith also claims that Ching later told him, “They don’t really torture the dogs in Cambodia.”
The author further doubts Ching’s harrowing tales of being shot at, chased with machetes, and other threats on his life during his trips to Asia.
When the Times asked Ching about his adventures, he described two car crashes some minor altercations, and getting punched in the face, but mentioned nothing about guns and knives.
Ching explained to the paper via email, “Those things happened to me. Over the years both intentionally and I believe subconsciously I have tried to forget the worst of these experiences as it is best for my mental health.”
Ching says that competing animal rights foundations simply have it in for him.
“Groups slander each other constantly based on the fact that they believe or feel they know better,” he said. “If the question is if I pay people to torture dogs—no, I don’t.”
The Times also plumbed Ching’s nonprofit’s financials and found “troubling” practices, including the withdrawal of large sums of money. The charity assured the Times that Ching neither misused funds nor mislead donors and has never taken a salary.
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