A global animal rights organization has bizarrely asked farmers not to kill the mice that plague regional Australia, arguing that rodents should not be denied their « right » to food because of the « dangerous notion of human domination ».
People’s comments for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) during the height of a devastating mouse plague enraged farmers and led the deputy prime minister to criticize the activists as « idiots who have never been out of town ».
The ongoing rodent infestation in Eastern Australia is on track to cause damage worth up to $ 100 million and has already exacerbated a mental health crisis in the regions.
Some farmers have lost up to $ 300,000 each in ruined crops while the mice chew through anything they can think of.
But PETA urges rural residents to consider the welfare of the mice and avoid killing them with poison, suggesting instead that the mice be gently trapped and released unharmed.
« These bright, curious animals are only looking for food to survive, » PETA spokeswoman Aleesha Naxakis told NCA NewsWire.
She said the government should take responsibility for the increase in mice and invest in humane methods of population control.
« In the meantime, we urge farmers and local residents to avoid poisoning these animals, » said Ms. Naxakis.
« This cruel method of killing innocent mice not only exposes innocent mice to excruciatingly painful deaths, but also carries the risk of spreading bacteria in the water when mouse cadavers appear in water tanks.
« The real rats in all of this plague are the people who come out with bloody stupid ideas like these, » he said.
“You have these people who never left town and wouldn’t know if their bums were on fire. Then suddenly they tell the farmers what to do?
Gunnedah farmer Xavier Martin urged PETA to try the catch-and-release model and see for itself whether it would work.
« It’s not the welfare of mice that we should be concerned about, we should care about people, » Martin said.
NSW Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro agreed that the PETA proposal was « ridiculous » and an « insult » to people living in the regions.
« The mice attack people while they sleep, tearing cables apart and wreaking havoc on the first good harvest that many farmers have had in years.
« I’m not going to entertain the ridiculous concerns of PETA. Mice are pests. They destroy crops and farms, and the emotional anxiety they cause families is real. »
CSIRO mouse expert Steve Henry said he spoke to a farmer who lost more than $ 300,000 to the rodents.
He said there was little people could do to stop the mice other than use poison to kill them.
The only toxin registered for baiting large-scale farming systems is zinc phosphide, while households have to resort to over-the-counter mouse bait sold in supermarkets, according to Henry.
He said the research he and his colleagues did on the strength of zinc phosphide recently resulted in authorities allowing stronger doses to be used, meaning any mouse that ate a poisoned grain would die.
« I don’t know of any evidence that an animal suffers from this poison, but I would stay away from the emotional things and stick to what we know, » said Henry.
« We know mice are a terrible problem for communities. And we have few methods of controlling them.
« We need to use these methods as strategically as possible to reduce the problem caused by mice. »
Mouse plague has struck a growing area stretching from southern Queensland to central NSW to northern Victoria, and there has also been an outbreak on the Yorke Peninsula in southern Australia.
The rodents have exploded in large numbers thanks to the same summer rain that was a welcome relief to the farmers who had suffered from the drought.
The pests can get pregnant as soon as they are six weeks old, and they have a litter of up to 10 newborns every 20 days.
This means that the population can quickly get out of hand, as many regional residents have experienced in the past few months.
John Southon, the director of Trundle Central School, a rural NSW school that was overrun by mice, said PETA’s comments were demeaning to people in the areas.
« I think it’s just another absolutely ridiculous concept from people who have never had mouse plague and can’t see the damage it does, » he said.
Clinical psychologist Gene Hodgins said people’s mental health was a real concern as mouse plague was only the latest in a string of disasters they faced, including drought, fire, flood, and COVID-19.
« Chronic stress leads to physical problems – fatigue and a weakened immune system – and mental problems, » said Hodgins, who works for Charles Sturt University.
« Mouse plague creates a feeling of helplessness, it is ubiquitous, and it affects every part of people’s lives, both at work and at home. There is no rest, » he said.
There are other health effects as well. NSW Health has reported a sharp increase in mouse-related leptospirosis in the past few months.
The total number of cases this year, 39, is already higher than the last two years combined.
The Hunter and New England area has borne the brunt of the spread of leptospirosis. This year there have been a total of 21 cases where the disease causes flu-like symptoms and, in severe cases, can lead to death.
While it has not previously been possible to quantify the damage caused by the current damage, a 1993 outbreak of a similar magnitude caused an estimated damage of $ 96 million, according to CSIRO.
A recent survey by NSW Farmers found that almost all of the 1,300 or so respondents had done a mouse check since the spring.
About 10 percent had spent more than $ 50,000 on bait. 15 respondents said they cost more than $ 150,000 each.
In addition, 48 people in the survey said they lost more than $ 250,000 in ruined grain, feed, and grain to the mice.
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