Thursday 14 March 2024

In terms of serious disease, rats are no more dangerous than other animals

Maite van Gerwen is an animal scientist running a consultancy, Amino Animalis, in, I believe Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She believes that rats (usually the brown or sewer rat) are treated unfairly. She believes that our relationship with rats is unbalanced and a gross example of speciesism.

She also believes that in terms of serious disease, rats are no more dangerous than other animals. They've been demonised in Europe and across the world since that dreadful event, the Black Death from the fourteenth to nineteenth centuries in which an estimated 25 million were killed.

The rat is blamed for the spread of the bubonic plague which today can be cured with antibiotics. You may remember that the cat was mercilessly slaughtered because at the time people thought the cat spread the disease but afterwards they decided it was the rats because fleas carrying the disease were present on the rats.

However, Gerwen says that in 2018 there was a report from the universities of Oslo and Ferrara which debunked the theory that rats spread the bubonic plague. These reports found that lice and fleas carried by humans not rats were the primary cause of the disease's spread.

Gerwen wants people to treat rats with a bit more respect. They keep themselves fastidiously clean and they clean each other despite living in sewers and in very dirty conditions.

Sewer workers appreciate their presence because they tend to de-block sewers by eating lots of fat residue which has been dumped into the sewer from people's kitchens.

She is referring to speciesism on a grand scale. The rat is certainly the animal that is most subject to negative speciesism.

Gerwen describes the rat as intelligent, cheeky and funny and a social opportunist. She says that, "if a cat or dog is killed, the animal ambulance will come and pick it up. A dead rat is left lying around, [it] goes in the garbage bin."

And she added that "sometimes the site of a rat is interpreted as a nuisance and a signal to take action. We must also ask ourselves what exactly is the nuisance?".

She has dismissed the fears of the rat as a transmitter of disease as mentioned and has urged the people of Amsterdam to learn to live with the rat as their neighbour. To be at risk of infection from a rat, an individual will have to be bitten by one or have contact with their excrement and urine.

She added that "where there are people there are rats. Why do we want certain animals around us and not others? In new build houses, facilities are made in the cavity to provide bats with a home. Rats are controlled with clamps, glue plates and poison."

In conclusion, she thinks rats are unjustly victimised. I agree with her. People are frightened of rats anyway. They have a very negative image thanks to centuries of negative publicity. It's going to be impossible to get rid of that indoctrination which is firmly fixed into our minds.

But if you think about it she's correct. Everything I read about this animal except for the article in The Times newspaper which is the source of this article, is very negative about rats. People take pleasure in killing them in anyway possible perhaps using dogs or shooting them for fun. It's an endless process of extermination. But is it fair and wise and correct?

The Latin, scientific name for the sewer rat is Rattus norvegicus.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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