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'Obscenity of some of that stuff... affects the whole world'

Paul McCartney calls to ban ‘medieval’ Chinese ‘wet markets’

Beatles legend and long-time animal rights activist compares sales of wild animals at markets, which many believe to be source of coronavirus, to ‘letting off atomic bombs’

Paul McCartney performs on day one of the Austin City Limits Music Festival's first weekend on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)
Paul McCartney performs on day one of the Austin City Limits Music Festival's first weekend on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)

Beatles legend Paul McCartney has called to ban China’s “wet markets,” which are widely believed to be the source of the coronavirus, calling them “medieval” and a threat to global health comparable to “letting off atomic bombs.”

McCartney made the comments while talking to US radio host Howard Stern, the Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday.

“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,” McCartney said.

Chinese disease control officials have previously identified wild animals sold in the Wuhan market as the source of the coronavirus pandemic, although it is still being investigated.

Mentions of the site have likewise disappeared from government epidemic discourse and official media reports, as some Chinese officials have pushed a new narrative that the virus might not have originated in the market, while offering no evidence.

Workers wearing protective suits walk next to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province on March 30, 2020, after travel restrictions into the city were eased following more than two months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

“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,” he said.

Asked about a petition to ban the wet markets, McCartney 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.”

The musician, long-time animal rights activist and vegetarian compared resistance to banning the markets to ending slavery.

“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,” he said.

The Wuhan market was sealed and disinfected beginning in January after the outbreak began to spread.

The Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, beleived to be the source of the coronavirus sits closed in Wuhan, China, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)

Now only disinfecting crews go in and out. Long red banners stretch across the temporary blue wall, exhorting passersby to do their part in the fight against the virus.

A price list issued by one merchant at the sprawling emporium, which circulated on China’s internet in January, contained a smorgasbord of exotic wildlife including civets, rats, snakes, giant salamanders and even live wolf pups.

Markets such as this are the final stop in what conservationists say is a brutal trade in wild animals that is fueled in large part by Chinese consumption.

It caters to an enduring demand for wild animals as exotic menu items or for use in traditional medicines whose efficacy is not confirmed by science.

After a more than two-month lockdown to contain the virus, in which citizens of Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province were confined to their homes, life is inching back toward normality.

Border controls are loosening, allowing residents who were stranded outside the province — as well as foreign journalists — to begin re-entering in recent days.

But the market’s fate seems sealed.

Illustrative: A Chinese vendor eats lunch near live and prepared eels at a wet market in Beijing, China, Monday, Aug 22, 2005. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

For weeks, crews have carefully disinfected and then removed all of its merchandise and other contents, followed by further rounds of disinfecting the entire site, according to state media reports.

The market is slated for permanent closure, according to the reports, though no plans to demolish the site have been announced.

China has, however, announced plans for a “comprehensive” ban on the wildlife trade that reportedly flourished there.

China blocked people from leaving or entering Wuhan starting Jan. 23 in a surprise middle-of-the-night announcement and expanded the lockdown to most of the province in succeeding days. Train service and flights were canceled and checkpoints were set up on roads into the central province.

The drastic steps came as the coronavirus began spreading to the rest of China and overseas during the Lunar New Year holiday in late January, when many Chinese travel.

The lockdown lasted 76 days.

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