I had an argybargy with my friend Greg today, who sent me an email inews piece about the spread of Bubonic Plague in Los Angeles(http://www.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30200-13519480,00.html). His message in the email said "I told you rats were filthy disease-ridden animals".
I had an argument with him over MSN about this. Firstly, the plague was spread by fleas infected by DEAD rats. DEAD rats. So are the rats to blame? They die, and the fleas do the natural thing and start to devour them, just like they would a dead dog, cat or even tramp.
People complain about the amount of rats in America, and indeed in our very own London. But whose fault is this? OURS. We are a nation of litterers and food wasters. Our restaurants have bulging skips out back full of waste food, not saled and disposed of properly, and our own streets are full of half-eaten food and food wrappers. Our litter bins overflow and are not regularly emptied, or there simply aren't enough bins so the rare ones we come across are always full.
Rats are plentiful because food is plentiful, and that's our fault for being lazy litterers. If food was hard to come by on city streets do you really think there would be rat populations running into the millions? No.
Rats, foxes, wild dogs and cats, are there to tidy up our laziness - and the byproduct of that is the diseases carried by the fleas that live on them.
"But rat urine can cause weals disease" says Greg. True, but dog shit can cause blindness, and how many dog owners let their dogs crap in a public park, then walk off without picking it up? Then little Timmy comes along with his football, trips, lands in the dog shit, and there you go. Domestic dogs are just as bad with disease propagation. How many houses are caked in germs because of the resident dog and cat tramping all over the surfaces with their dirty paws and dirty arses? At least domestic rats are kept contained in cages.
I would love to see the state of any big city if all the rats and other wild food predators magically disappeared for a week. We'd be gassed by the stench of all our discarded rotten food - with nobody there to eat it and clean it off the streets. Garbage disposal probably couldn't cope with the amout of food that they'd have to tidy up, so used to it being cleaned up for us by "those horrid rats".
Councils spend millions each year trying to cure rat and pest problems - but they are spending the money in the wrong area. If they spent it on more litter bins and better garbage disposal, and penalties for litter droppers, then the food would disappear and so would the pests.