Former Smiths front man and staunch animal rights advocate Morrissey is raising some eyebrows with comments he made about the Chinese in a recent interview:
"Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies."
It was a throwaway comment, really -- one line in a pretty long interview with poet/playwright Simon Armitage -- but it isn't the first time Morrissey has made provocative comments regarding his beliefs. Give the guy credit, he's passionate about animal welfare (he quit the stage at Coachella last year because he smelled cooking meat). He's also, as it turns out, either deliberately ignorant or stunningly naïve.
Morrissey has since commented on his...comments, and he's sticking to his guns:
"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 favour of China as a caring nation. There are no animal protection laws in China and this results in the worst animal abuse and cruelty on the planet. It is indefensible."
True enough, it is indefensible. At least Western furriers have the decency to put the animal out of its misery before peeling off its skin (unless it's been unfortunate enough to get caught in a leg hold trap, that is).
Morrissey has gotten in hot water for perceived racism before, though he denies such accusations, claiming -- among other things -- that a vendetta against him by British music mag NME is responsible. That's why I tend to side with Armitage when he says the "subspecies" comment is a combination of Morrissey's flair for the dramatic as well as his honest belief that those who abuse animals are less than human.
His singling out of the Chinese, however, only gives those who targeted songs like "Asian Rut" and "Bengali in Platforms" more ammunition. Western countries have fur industries as well, not to mention entire infrastructures set up expressly for the systematic butchering of livestock for human consumption. Why doesn't Moz consider Canadians a subspecies? Or the French? Or Kentuckians?
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Besides, animal cruelty makes the Chinese subhuman? Like so many of his ilk, Morrissey would have the fate of dogs and cats trump those forced to live amidst deadly pollution, or executed for embezzlement. I'd have thought the tens of millions killed during Mao's rule would have condemned China long before we got to the fur trade.
But still I keep coming back to word "subspecies," as if the Chinese were somehow lower forms of life than Homo sapiens. The history of humanity into the 21st century, however, is one of conquest and genocide. If the Chinese are truly subhuman, they're going to have to get in line behind the Spanish, Ottoman Turks, Germans, Serbs, and Americans.
And, oh yeah, the British.
Our crimes against all creatures great and small aside, we've got a much worse track record brutalizing ourselves. After 5,000 years of recorded history, maybe Morrissey should realize describing someone as less than human isn't really much of an insult.