Morrissey, the singer/songwriter who fronted the 80’s band The Smiths, took an interview with the Guardian last week in which he is quoted to have said:
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. (emphasis added)
Morrissey was speaking in the context of an article that ran in the paper about treatment of animals in Chinese zoos and circuses.
Morrissey is known for causing controversy over inflammatory, and often racialized, denouncements. In 2007, he made anti-immigrant remarks that sounded very much like the xenophobia and hate spouted by America’s White Nationalists:
The war of words with NME continued in 2007 after Morrissey, who lived in Rome at the time, was quoted in an interview with the magazine apparently criticising levels of immigration after being asked if he would ever consider moving back to England. “With the issue of immigration, it’s very difficult because, although I don’t have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears,” he said. “If you walk through Knightsbridge on any bland day of the week you won’t hear an English accent. You’ll hear every accent under the sun apart from the British accent.”
At another point in the interview he stated: “England is a memory now. The gates are flooded and anybody can have access to England and join in.”
Morrissey has also been quoted as saying he “didn’t really think, for instance, that Black people and White people could ever really get along“, and the lyrics of some of his songs — including Bengali in Platforms, Asian Rut and The National Front Disco — tout seemingly racist, xenophobic and White nationalist messages.
Now, this latest quote from Morrissey seems to have re-fueled the fires over his racism.
And frankly, I’m outraged by the statement. Whether you are a fervent animal rights activist or not (and Morrissey is), there’s no excuse for labelling an entire racial group of people as less than human. We’ve seen that kind of speech before; it’s not cool.
I understand why Morrissey feels passionate over stories of animal abuse, but here, we also see a mindset that’s too common amongst animal rights activists: there’s an elevation of animals over certain groups of people that can easily breed contempt, and even racism. We can and should call out countries or political groups for their mistreatment of animals, but a line is crossed when the status of an entire race of people are lowered to that of a “subspecies”, even if it is just by an aging 80’s has-been who’s only causing a stir because he’s desperately trying to keep his name in headlines.