Animal activists acknowledged New York City‘s growing rat problem but blamed the rodent infestation on “disgusting human behavior” and condemned plans to kill them.
“I don’t think any of us want to see the city filled with rats the way it is right now and that includes PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] and other people who care about animals,” PETA’s communications director Ashley Byrne said, according to the New York Post.
“The rats you see on the streets are still sensitive, intelligent animals and they deserve better than to be killed in gruesome, painful ways.”
Byrne attributed the city’s rat population to humans providing their food supply by not adequately disposing of their trash.
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PETA urged New York City to find humane ways to reduce the city’s growing rat infestation. (iStock)
“As long as the garbage is there and unchecked the rats will be there,” she told the outlet. “We have a disgusting human behavior problem, not a rat problem.”
She went on to say that “it’s much easier for the city to demonize rats in this cartoonish manner than it is to tell New Yorkers to get their act together and stop treating the city like a garbage dump.”
Democratic Mayor Eric Adams last week appointed Kathleen Corradi as New York City’s first director of rodent mitigation, also referred to as a “rat czar.” The job description called for someone who is “somewhat bloodthirsty” and committed to “wholesale slaughter” of the disease-ridden rodents.
PETA president Ingrid Newkirk last week met with Rachel Atcheson, who serves as special advisor to Adams’ chief of staff, to discuss humane ways the city can cut back on the number of rats afflicting New Yorkers.
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A rat crosses a Times Square subway platform in New York on Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
“We are in touch with the mayor’s office, but we fear, given people’s demonization of rats, that chemical sterilization (birth control), which is the most humane method short of better trash pick-up and cleaning the streets of human-created food trash, takes time and therefore is deemed too slow in instant gratification and rat carcasses,” Newkirk said in a statement to the Post.
“If killing is the goal, more rats will come to fill the void and the cycle will continue,” Newkirk said, adding she feared city officials’ tough talk on rats means “being kind to these small mammals—who feel pain and fear every bit as much as any dog, cat, or the ‘rat czar’ herself—is apparently not a consideration.”
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Rat sightings in New York City have spiked in recent years, with a report released last fall noting the number of sightings has increased 70% compared to two years before. Adams has described rats as “public enemy number one,” and City Council voted on a rat action plan in October to tackle the problem systematically.
Mayor Eric Adams has said rats are “public enemy number one” in New York City. (Barry Williams/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
“Every New Yorker hates rats — they’re dirty, diseased, and degrade our quality of life,” Adams’ press secretary Fabien Levy told the Post. “They also pose a public health risk to all New Yorkers. We hired a rat czar to expand what works and bring a unified strategy to the war on rats so we can ultimately make progress and rid of our city of these diseased rodents.”
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“We’re glad PETA agrees with the plans we already have in place that place trash out later and have it picked up earlier, but we also continue to look at every rat mitigation tool and technique possible to see what works best for New York City,” Levy added. “While we hope to utilize these techniques without causing additional suffering, our priority remains our city’s residents, not its rodents.”