BY ROGER WATSON
I have decided to atone for my sin of daring to suggest that there may be a fox too many in our urban environment with which we, apparently, live in perfect harmony. If so, where are my ducks? Admittedly, I could have attended to a hole near the fence but, on the other hand, if there weren’t any urban foxes, I’d still be making duck egg omelettes and my ducks would still be quacking, instead of quaking. Anyway, let’s not open up that old wound again lest I open the tap to another torrent of abuse from the Witchfinders General of the pro-Fox lobby. I get enough abuse from my wife and kids; I don’t need to be told I’m a ‘bellend’ and a ‘c**t’ in public. I wear these insults like badges of honour. If they were medals, I’d wear them on my chest alongside my Gulf War medals (cue a Twitter pile on by the pacifist lobby).
So, I have decided to take up the cause of the humble rat. I just can’t explain why I love them so much. Perhaps it’s the way they skulk along the side of my house as they go about their nocturnal business, perhaps it’s that long slithery tail or it may even be the way they bare their teeth at you if you corner one in your garden shed. I just want to pick them up and cuddle them.
The rat has had a hard time historically. First, they were thought to arise through spontaneous generation. This was a theory that was held in olden times which said that moulds formed spontaneously on food left lying; maggots arose out of dead flesh and rats arose out of rubbish tips. Thus, they were associated with refuse and decay and therefore shunned and trapped and killed. Eventually, thanks to Louis Pasteur the theory of spontaneous generation was disproved and none but a bunch of flat earthers and other assorted nutters holds to the theory these days. It was soon realised that, for example, rats were associated with rubbish tips because we had created the rubbish tip and rats were attracted and started breeding there.
Then there was the plague called the Black Death which, received wisdom said, was spread by rats. The story went that the fleas on the rats carried the plague from the rats to humans. Not so, apparently, rats were merely innocent bystanders to the whole thing and the plague was spread from human to human directly. It is high time, surely, that the Prime Minister issued a public apology to the humble rat and that historic reparations were paid. I don’t know, but perhaps, in addition to re-wilding (aka ‘neglecting’) parts of our gardens we could leave a pile of festering rubbish in the corner and let the rats have free rein.
Towards the end of my personal crusade for rats’ rights I am going to team up with Animal Aid which sees itself as ‘Fighting Animal Abuse & Promoting a Cruelty-free Lifestyle’. On its wildlife pages (where ‘Fox’ is not listed…Twitter storm!) where it lists the animals about which it is concerned, under ‘Rat’ it says:
So, there you have it; those scurrying creatures that many think are overfed, vicious nocturnal nuisances are no more than pets. We should all have one.
Therefore, the campaign begins here to Save the Rat and I will be selling Rat Kits on my website as soon as they are delivered from the manufacturers. Each kit will come in a large black bag and the contents will be an assortment of decaying food, old clothes and some rat friendly playthings. These will retail at £50 per kit. Other initiatives are being developed with my design and strategy team and proposals include an Adopt a Rat scheme which will work by monthly subscription. You will not actually receive a rat, but you will be allocated a rat and allowed to give it a name and you will receive weekly bulletins from our team of rat watchers on the progress of your rat. At the end of the rat’s life, you will be able to attend a dignified online funeral with a choice of burial or cremation. Watch this space for when the website goes live. Saving the rat population, one rat at a time.
Roger Watson is a Registered Nurse and Editor-in-Chief of Nurse Education in Practice.