Rocker Bryan Adams is taking a cue from one of his top 10 hits in the ’90s, “Please Forgive Me,” as he apologizes for a coronavirus-related social media post that struck many as reckless.
“Apologies to any and all that took offense to my posting yesterday,” he wrote on Instagram, referring back to a contentious statement that blamed the pandemic and its sickness and death toll on “some f—ing bat-eating, wet market animal-selling, virus-making greedy bastards.” Some took the post as falling into a line of racist thought against the Chinese and Asian culture.
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“No excuse,” Adams continued in his follow-up post Tuesday, before doubling down on the vegan sentiments he said were at the source of his anger. “I just wanted to have a rant about the horrible animal cruelty in these wet-markets being the possible source of the virus, and promote veganism. I have love for all people and my thoughts are with everyone dealing with this pandemic around the world.”
Adams then resumed his daily custom of citing songs that he would have been playing on tour if not for the lockdowns, saying, “Here’s the appropriately titled song that would have been performed tonight at the Royal Albert Hall” — “Into the Fire.”
Judging from ongoing responses on social media, the fire over Adams’ remarks was not about to be quenched, as some conservatives said he shouldn’t have apologized, some liberals complained that he didn’t really apologize, and progressive reaction was split between anti-racism and anti-carnivore camps. The Star, the largest news outlet in Adams’ native Canada, said that he was not racist but “screwed up” and saw his comments as “harmful because they gave ignorant ammo to haters.” But PETA, which had recently featured an interview with Adams on its website, leaped to his defense.
In his previous post, which remains online (with comments disabled), Adams wrote, “Tonight was supposed to be the beginning of a tenancy of gigs at the Royal Albert Hall, but thanks to some f—ing bat eating, wet market animal selling, virus making greedy bastards, the whole world is now on hold, not to mention the thousands that have suffered or died from this virus. My message to them other than ‘thanks a f—ing lot’ is go vegan. To all the people missing out on our shows, I wish I could be there more than you know. It’s been great hanging out in isolation with my children and family, but I miss my other family, my band, my crew and my fans. Take care of yourselves and hope we can get the show on the road again soon. I’ll be performing a snippet from each album we were supposed to perform for the next few days.”
The World Health Organization has identified a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, in which live animals are kept in closely confined cages and sold for slaughter, as either a source or “amplifying setting” for the coronavirus outbreak.
Some commentators found his “bat-eating” remark or the general tone of the post to be “dog whistling” for anti-Chinese racism. Amy Go, president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, was among them, telling CBC News that Adams’ remarks would foster “racist hatred against the Chinese.”
PETA issued a statement in support of the singer to Billboard. “Bryan Adams echoes the frustrations of millions of people who are outraged that the violent meat trade has once again been allowed to devastate human health,” said PETA senior VP Dan Mathews. “‘Wet markets’ and disease-ridden slaughterhouses around the world are superhighways for contagion and must be closed now. Despite conspiracy theories, credible experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Jane Goodall, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have repeatedly warned about the hazards to human health when animals are captured, confined and killed. Humans brought this pandemic upon themselves through their addiction to meat, and the surest way to prevent future outbreaks is to stop supporting slaughter by going vegan.”
Vinay Menon, an entertainment columnist for the Star newspaper in Adams’ home country, Canada, wrote, “Do I think Bryan Adams is a racist? No. I think he’s a long-time animal rights activist and a vegan who is really, really pissed he’s not making bank in London this week. That’s about it. He’s not a racist — he’s a meatist! But when the world is on edge, our cultural luminaries ought to step out of their silos and avoid nudging anyone into an us-and-them abyss. Without intending harm, Adams’ words were harmful because they gave ignorant ammo to haters who wouldn’t know an Ebola from a Hendra and are just looking for any reason to point fingers or burn down the nearest Mandarin.”
Reaction to Adams’ remarks before and after his apology looked to be sharply divided on social media, and — because of the veganism angle — not just along the usual right/left lines. Samples:
“Guess we have to cancel Bryan Adams and Bryan Adams without the B now.” — @KylaGalloway1
“Just who in the hell gave Bryan Adams to call out the illegal wildlife trade that’s caused this whole situation? Those damn activist musicians caring about animals and raising awareness of pertinent issues, how dare they? Bloody fascists the lot of them.” — @shravankrishnan
“Why does racism ALWAYS jump out of vegans?? I guess they taking a break from comparing black people to animals to drag Chinese folks.” — @johndegarson
“If he wanted to make a statement about going vegan that’s fine, but he has to realize that there are millions of people suffering from starvation that really have no choice or say in the matter when it comes to food scarcity.” — @Sandra_Cole44
“Bryan Adams would have said the exact same thing if wet markets operated in any country with any race. Criticism and anger over a country’s practices that impacted you directly is not f—ing racism.” — @jgquinton
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