[Marxism] Another war they're losing: with rats

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Mar 13 03:05:28 MST 2005


>From London Review of Books March 17

Some of them can read
Sean Wilsey 
Rats: A Year with New York’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert
Sullivan [ Buy from the London Review Bookshop ] · Granta, 242 pp,
£12.99


Wherever there are human beings, there are rats. China is where the rat
originated, and where you can find it on restaurant menus. Rat
populations increase in times of war. New York City battled an epic rat
infestation at the World Trade Center site after 9/11, and was obliged
to fill the ruins with poison. A third of the world’s food supply is
consumed or destroyed by rats. Rats have eaten cadavers in the New York
City coroner’s office. Rats have attacked and killed homeless people
sleeping on the streets of Manhattan. There are more rodents currently
infected with plague in North America (mostly in rural western states:
Wyoming, Montana, Colorado) than there were in Europe at the time of the
Black Death. Whenever we see a rat, it’s a weak rat, forced into the
open to look for food; the strong ones stay out of sight. Brown rats
survived nuclear testing in the Pacific by staying deep down in their
burrows. There have always been rats in the White House. Exterminators
will always have work. ‘Rats that survive to the age of four are the
wisest and the most cynical beasts on earth,’ an exterminator told
Mitchell sixty years ago. ‘A trap means nothing to them, no matter how
skilfully set. They just kick it around until it snaps; then they eat
the bait. And they can detect poisoned bait a yard off. I believe some
of them can read.’ A pest control technician – as they’re now called,
‘exterminator’ having a deceptive air of finality – told Sullivan that a
‘sniper with a night-vision scope’ is the only way to kill a rat of the
semi-literate kind. The Department of Homeland Security, as part of its
post-9/11 bioterror-alertness effort, catches rats and inspects their
fleas to see if terrorists have released the Black Death in New York
City. A male rat will continue mating with a female rat even if she’s
dead. A ‘dominant male rat may mate with up to twenty female rats in
just six hours,’ Sullivan says.

Male rats exiled from their nest by more aggressive male rats will also
live in all-male rat colonies and have sex with the other male rats. The
gestation period of a pregnant female rat is 21 days, the average litter
between eight to ten pups. And a female rat can become pregnant
immediately after giving birth. If there is a healthy amount of garbage
for the rats to eat, then a female rat will produce up to 12 litters of
20 rats each a year. One rat’s nest can turn into a rat colony of 50
rats in six months. One pair of rats has the potential of 15,000
descendants in a year.

Full article: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n06/wils07_.html





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