Parisians must live with rats – mayor
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo plans to form a committee to explore whether citizens in the French capital should learn to live alongside rats in peaceful coexistence rather than attempt to exterminate the vermin, a city official said last week.
“With guidance from the mayor, we have decided to form a committee on the question of cohabitation,” Anne Souyris, Paris’ deputy mayor for public health, said at a meeting of the Council of Paris on Thursday.
The newly announced policy represents a significant departure from previous measures implemented in Paris to tackle the city’s estimated six million rats. The capital’s 2017 anti-rat plan funneled $1.8 million of its funds into a range of anti-rodent policies, such as the installation of airtight trash bins and the large-scale use of rat poison at thousands of sites across the city.
The rat problem is thought to have been exacerbated by recent pension-reform protests in Paris, which saw refuse go uncollected on city streets for weeks.
And with Paris’ rat population still outnumbering its human counterparts by a ratio of around 3:1, new measures are being considered – with Souyris saying the committee will establish “the most efficient” way for Parisians and rats to coexist that are “not unbearable” for people who live in the city.
Critics, though, say the plan amounts to simply throwing in the towel on the rodent issue. “Anne Hidalgo’s team never disappoints,” tweeted politician Geoffroy Boulard, who has frequently highlighted the city’s “proliferation of rats.” He added that “Paris deserves better.”
Some animal rights groups are more welcoming of new plans. Previous control methods were “ineffective and cruel,” Paris Animal Zoopolis said. “New methods [are] essential.”
Paris has long had a tempestuous relationship with vermin. Rats were largely responsible for the spread of the bubonic plague, which killed half of the city’s population in the 14th century. However, the animals also helped citizens stave off starvation during the 1870-71 Siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian war.
Paris is not alone in attempting to devise new methods of addressing age-old problems like rat infestations. New York appointed its first so-called ‘rat czar’ in April to deal with its own rodent problems, while the French city of Toulouse has employed the use of ferrets to help bring the rat population under control.