Neil Young says he will no longer tour 'unless the venues are clean'

In an interview with Q’s Tom Power, the Canadian icon explains why his environmental views may spell the end of touring for him.

The Canadian icon explains why his environmental views may spell the end of touring for him

Musician Neil Young performs onstage at the 4th Annual Light Up The Blues at the Pantages Theatre on May 21, 2016 in Hollywood, Calif. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Neil Young has not performed live since September 2019, and it now seems that might have been his fans' last chance to catch the Canadian icon in concert.

Last year, Young told Rolling Stone that he was holding off on touring behind his latest Crazy Horse album at the time, Barn, because of ongoing COVID-19 concerns, telling the magazine, "I don't want to put people in danger. I don't want people to see me out there and think I think everything is okay. I don't think everything is okay." 

And while the pandemic is still causing concern and complications among touring musicians, Young has added a more definitive reason why he may never hit the road again. 

In a new interview with Q's Tom Power, promoting another new Crazy Horse album, World Record, Young explains that his environmental views, especially when it comes to eating sustainably, are something he refuses to compromise on, and which can be difficult to uphold when touring from city to city.

"When I look at the compromise that I would have to make to do that, the things that I don't believe in, that I'd have to endorse, it doesn't turn me on," Young tells Power. "I can deal with the power for the venue, I can make it clean. I can make the P.A. clean, the lights clean, the electricity in the building clean. I can clean up all my vehicles. I've got the right fuel. I can do all of that. But the food — all those places are fed by factory farms."

Young is referring to the industrial method of raising farmed animals, which has been criticized by environmental advocates as an intensive form of agriculture that prioritizes maximizing profits over the treatment of its livestock in addition to generating as much greenhouse gas emissions as "all cars, trucks and automobiles combined," as Greenpeace states.

Young has been speaking out against factory farming for years, and in 1985 he helped establish the annual Farm Aid concerts, which raise money for family farmers in the U.S. One of Young's last performances was at the 2019 edition of Farm Aid. 

"I can't support it," Young continues, noting that most venues' foods are sourced from caterers who use factory-farmed foods. He notes that it can be difficult coming into venues, demanding "good food that has to be clean food, sustainably grown, and presented in a sustainable way." 

Ultimately, Young states: "Fuel is half of it, and food is the other half." 

When Power asks Young if that means he's no longer touring, Young replies, "Unless the venues are clean, and that they work that way, I won't be there."

"I've seen too much," he continues, "I can't do it. I believe in what I believe, and it's grounded in science. I know what's going on in the planet, what caused it, what we're continuing to do, and I cannot support buildings, organizations and companies that will not change that. If they change it, then I can consider going."

Listen to the full interview below. 

Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young returns to Q to talk about his latest album with Crazy Horse "World Record." He delves into his love and grief over the world around him, plus the 50th anniversary of his legendary album Harvest.