Beatles star and animal rights activist makes comparison with abolition of slave trade as he calls markets ‘obscene … they might as well be letting off atomic bombs’
Paul McCartney has called Chinese wet markets “medieval” and blamed them for the spread of coronavirus, using a comparison with the abolition of the slave trade when calling for them to be banned.
So-called “wet markets” in Asia trade in fresh meat and produce, and sometimes feature live animals. (They take their name from the frequently hosed-down floors.) A common theory – though far from confirmed – is that Covid-19 originated in a live animal market in Wuhan, with the disease being transmitted from illegally traded bat or pangolin meat.
How did coronavirus start and where did it come from? Was it really Wuhan’s animal market?
Speaking to US radio host Howard Stern about the coronavirus crisis, McCartney said: “I really hope that this will mean the Chinese government says, ‘OK guys, we have really got to get super hygienic around here.’ Let’s face it, it is a little bit medieval eating bats.”
Stern said to McCartney: “They will not close down these wet markets, that got us into this trouble in the first place. It’s mind-boggling, right?”
“It wouldn’t be so bad if this is the only thing it seems like you can blame on those wet markets,” McCartney replied. “It seems like Sars, avian flu, all sorts of other stuff that has afflicted us … and what’s it for? For these quite medieval practices. They need to clean up their act. This may lead to [change]. If this doesn’t, I don’t know what will.”
When asked about the petitions to ban wet markets, McCartney, an animal rights activist and a vegetarian for much of his life, said: “I think it makes a lot of sense … when you’ve got the obscenity of some of the stuff that’s going on there and what comes out of it, they might as well be letting off atomic bombs. It’s affecting the whole world.
“I understand that part of it is going to be: people have done it for ever, this is the way we do things. But they did slavery forever, too. You’ve got to change things at some point.”
There is uncertainty about the exact source of Covid-19. There is broad consensus that it was transmitted from bats, but the route to humans remains unclear. Stephen Turner, head of the department of microbiology at Melbourne’s Monash University, told the Guardian this week: “I don’t think it’s conclusive by any means”, when asked if the virus passed to humans via an animal at a Wuhan market.
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McCartney is self-isolating in Sussex with his daughter Mary and her family, with an “enforced separation” from his wife Nancy Shevell, who is in New York.
“We’ve seen various forms of crisis before but nothing that’s affected everyone in the world at the same time,” he said. “I must say, it’s scary. The thing for me is, I’m from the generation that had just come out of world war II, my mum and dad were in world war II, and the spirit that they showed was: we’ll get on with it, we’ll do whatever’s necessary, we’ll pull together and try to stay happy … that spirit is kind of what they needed, and is what we need now. That’s what we’re seeing now, a lot of people are pulling together … it’s inspiring.”
When asked if civil unrest could occur, McCartney said: “I think we are going to see that, and we are seeing it at the moment in Great Britain.” But he added: “I think from what I can see, it’s happening the other way. People are realising there is so much good in humanity. And thank god, it seems to be showing itself.”
He also touched on his cancelled Glastonbury headline set, saying: “What’s disappointing for me is the people who bought tickets, who were looking forward to this and thinking here’s something groovy to do in the summer, and suddenly the plug is pulled, and we can’t come around and play for them. It’s sad for us, too – we were looking forward to that.”