Why did we need to wait for this pandemic, for this worldwide lockdown (at a few exceptions) to condemn the Chinese wet markets? Several celebrities, and especially Sir Paul McCartney, have voiced their opinion about this terrible practice. Talking to US radio host Howard Stern, McCartney has called Chinese wet markets ‘medieval’ and has blamed them for the spread of coronavirus, even using a comparison with the abolition of the slave trade.
I know this will not sit well with African Americans, but they should not take it this way – easy to say because I am white? This is not disrespectful, all form of suffering is unacceptable and the way we treat animals, who are conscious beings just like us, is a disgrace all over the world.
The wet markets are very common in Asia, and if you have watched a few videos on Youtube, you know that these markets offer any kind of live animal, from dogs to wild civets, bats and other mammals or reptiles.
‘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,’ declared McCartney.
It’s impossible to exactly know how the virus jumped into the human population – did someone ate a bat? Was a bat in contact with other animals on the market? – but the result is the same. Plus, we have been there before, SARS, MERS had a similar origin, and these markets located at the center of very densely populated areas are potential disasters.
‘It wouldn’t be so bad if this is the only thing it seems like you can blame on those wet markets,’ McCartney continued. ‘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.’
McCartney has been an animal activist and a vegetarian for much of his life, and it makes total sense that he is voicing his opinion at this moment. He is well aware he is battling enduring traditions, century-long customs, plus the politically correct crowd. But do we have the choice?
There is a recurrent rumor that the virus was bioengineered in a lab and did not originate in a wet market, some media outlets have even suggested that SARS CoV-2 (the scientific name for COVID-19) may have been spread by China’s National Biosafety lab at Wuhan Institute of Virology where researchers have studied bats. The close proximity of the lab and the wet market was enough to imagine this theory, and it was not a hypothesis rejected by scientists first. However, science has not found anything to support these conspiracy theories. Recently several scientific papers have pointed out that the virus genome has been sequenced and no signs of alteration, something expected if the virus had been man-made, were found. The genome is close to another virus found in bats and the differences between the viruses are fairly random, just as they would be if it was the result of natural selection. ‘We see absolutely no evidence that the virus has been engineered or purposely released,’ says Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of Basel in Switzerland. And she is one of the numerous scientists saying the same thing. The gene encoding the coronavirus’s spike protein has in particular been the subject of a lot of studies and it seems that SARS-CoV-2 has a mutation creating a site not found in other SARS-like viruses which makes COVID-19 more efficient at binding to human cells. ‘The insertion also created places where sugar molecules could be fastened to the spike protein, creating a shield to protect the virus from the immune system,’ says Robert Garry, a virologist at Tulane University in New Orleans. And by ‘comparing SARS-CoV-2 with other coronaviruses recently found in nature, researchers found out that SARS-CoV-2 could be a mix of bat and pangolin viruses,’ Garry says. Viruses found in pangolins have this same mutation, ‘So clearly, this is something that can happen in nature,’ says Kristian Andersen, an infectious disease researcher at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Plus, the sugars shied protects the virus from an immune system attack, something that would not arise from growing a virus in a lab because the virus would not be in contact with an immune system in a petri dish. ‘This was just another animal spillover into humans,’ Andersen says. ‘It’s really the most simple explanation for what we see.’
Of course, explanations like these are tedious and a bit hard to understand for people unfamiliar with biology, so it’s much easier to go with the conspiracy theory, but if there is simply no evidence the virus was bioengineered, and it was the result of natural selection,… Thus, Paul McCartney is right to denounce the existence of wet markets, these Chinese authors had already published a study showing the role of Chinese wet markets in the emergence and dissemination of viral infections in 2006, and it’s just one example among many others. Their conclusion was ‘In Chinese wet-markets, unique epicenters for transmission of potential viral pathogens, new genes may be acquired or existing genes modified through various mechanisms such as genetic reassortment, recombination, and mutation. The wet-markets, at closer proximity to humans, with high viral burden or strains of higher transmission efficiency, facilitate the transmission of the viruses to humans.’ Why haven’t we done anything since?
‘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,’ said McCartney. Of course, markets can still exist, but China has to regulate what is allowed in these markets so that no live animal should be slaughtered on-site, and no wild animal should be trapped in a cage waiting to be slaughtered. Alas, Markets have currently reopened in China, despite the pandemic.
I bet a lot of celebrities are afraid to speak up because they are afraid to be criticized for denouncing a foreign tradition and to be called ‘racist’? But there are a few exceptions: Famous primatologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall has recently spoken up for a global ban on wildlife trade, and Ricky Gervais has also called for wet markets to close. Morrissey Central is selling this face mask that reads: ‘Meat Markets breed Killer Diseases – Go Vegan’, which is a good idea. Of course, Morrissey had once or twice used totally inappropriate words to qualify an entire nation, as this declaration – ‘If anyone has seen the horrific and unwatchable footage of the Chinese cat and dog trade – animals skinned alive – then they could not possibly argue in favor of China as a caring nation […] Absolutely horrific. You can’t help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies’ – has sent the Guardian and other politically correct outlets into a perpetual attack mode against the ex-Smiths frontman.
But how do all these cancel culture enthusiasts feel now that Paul McCartney, Dr. Jane Goodall, and Ricky Gervais basically agree with Morrissey minus the insulting term? I would even say that it is an interesting development, the same Guardian is reporting about McCartney calling Chinese wet markets ‘medieval’ without even applying the same cancel culture logic,
In any case, people can still call Morrissey or Ricky Gervais racist, but they will totally miss the point.
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